Taxonomic affinities and evolutionary history of the early Pleistocene hominids of Java: Dentognathic evidence

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Abstract

Temporal changes, within-group variation, and phylogenetic positions of the Early Pleistocene Javanese hominids remain unclear. Recent debate focused on the age of the oldest Javanese hominids, but the argument so far includes little morphological basis for the fossils. To approach these questions, we analyzed a comprehensive dentognathic sample from Sangiran, which includes most of the existing hominid mandibles and teeth from the Early Pleistocene of Java. The sample was divided into chronologically younger and older groups. We examined morphological differences between these chronological groups, and investigated their affinities with other hominid groups from Africa and Eurasia. The results indicated that 1) there are remarkable morphological differences between the chronologically younger and older groups of Java, 2) the chronologically younger group is morphologically advanced, showing a similar degree of dentognathic reduction to that of Middle Pleistocene Chinese H. erectus, and 3) the chronologically older group exhibits some features that are equally primitive as or more primitive than early H. erectus of Africa. These findings suggest that the evolutionary history of early Javanese H. erectus was more dynamic than previously thought. Coupled with recent discoveries of the earliest form of H. erectus from Dmanisi, Georgia, the primitive aspects of the oldest Javanese hominid remains suggest that hominid groups prior to the grade of ca. 1.8–1.5 Ma African early H. erectus dispersed into eastern Eurasia during the earlier Early Pleistocene, although the age of the Javanese hominids themselves is yet to be resolved. Subsequent periods of the Early Pleistocene witnessed remarkable changes in the Javanese hominid record, which are ascribed either to significant in situ evolution or replacement of populations. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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