Sangiran Early Man Site: Coming to Terms with Human Bones

The Sangiran Early Man Site may not be as popular a destination as its neighboring world heritage sites Prambanan and Borobudur. Nevertheless, it is a well-maintained museum of great importance worthy of a visit.

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The Javan Man monument is the first to greet visitors to the site. The entrance is indeed worthy of a World Heritage Site.

First, let’s clarify something: in reality, the Java Man that we read in our history textbooks is not a just single man; it refers to a collection of several hominid fossils across different periods in pre-history. So, technically, they are the Java men! 🙂

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Aside from hominid fossils, Sangiran also proved to be a hotspot of megafauna fossils.

From Solo (Surakarta), my friends drove me to the site on a motorbike. Despite summer heat, the 45-minute journey to the countryside was pleasant, providing a good survey of beautiful traditional Central Javanese houses. Upon approaching Sangiran, one cannot fail to notice the plethora of billboards and signage promoting the “Homeland of the Java Man“. Such local efforts are, of course, truly admirable.

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Tourism and World Heritage Sites in action.

The site is divided into two areas: the museum and the view-deck atop a nearby hill. I managed to see both, but the latter was a bit disappointing as it fails to pinpoint the perimeter of the site. Amidst endless trees, you can actually spot the dome of the museum and that’s just it.

The museum’s three exhibition halls are presented in a way that would make visitors really get hooked on what are being highlighted. Afterall, Sangiran is just the most productive site in the world in understanding human evolution. 

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The hominid fossils (skulls) found in Sangiran

The first hall illustrates the “Wealth of Sangiran” with some of the findings uncovered such as stone tools, ancient animal fossils, and various early hominid remains – some are estimated to be 1.6 million years old. The second hall is the “Steps of Humanity”, which interweaves mainstream biological and evolutionary theories. This hall also highlights the roles played by Dutchman Eugene Dubois and German GHR von Königswald in unearthing the treasures of the site. Interestingly, the second hall also allows visitors to touch the fossils of a 500,000-year old elephant – and, boy, they were really heavy! The last hall representing the “Golden Era of Homo Erectus”, sadly, has lesser articles on display.

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Human fossils across millions of years.

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Not quite sure if this is considered “in situ”. Anyone?

The main problem, however, is that most captions and verbiages are only in Bahasa Indonesia, which was a bit frustrating on my part as I ‘really’ read stuff. For a site/tourist destination of global importance, I think it is imperative to provide English texts/translations for others to understand what the featured items inside the museum are.

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English, please?

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This was fun. You really are allowed to touch really old fossils (not replica).

Also, I’m not quite sure if the management has plans to open some of the dig sites for ocular visits. But, looking at the potential of the site, this should be one feature worth considering for Sangiran. In fact, Malaysia’s Lenggong Valley World Heritage Site, the home of the “Perak Man“, is gearing towards highlighting their ‘in situ’ digs for tourism as well.

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The Sangiran plain with the golden dome of the museum visible.

Lastly, to my surprise, the present museum dome is actually designed by the grandfather of a friend of mine from Jogjakarta – which is, of course, another reason to celebrate the visit.

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About theberntraveler

An ardent fan of natural and cultural sites. Art lover. Cultural geek. Loves meeting people and knowing their stories. Takes joy eating great food and proper vino. Travels extensively and intensively around the Philippines and Southeast Asia, with some few travels in other regions.
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4 Responses to Sangiran Early Man Site: Coming to Terms with Human Bones

  1. I found your post to be very interesting as I have never heard of this before. I think it would be a nice place to visit and it would be interesting to actually touch real fossils instead of replicas. I also agree in providing English text for tourists but I also believe that other languages should also be provided for other people.

  2. yjain916 says:

    This site seems really interesting. I’ve never really heard of it before so when I read the title I was intrigued to see what it was about. I didn’t remember learning about the “java man” in grade school so I had to do a little bit of research to figure it out and I found out that it’s one of the earliest species of homo erectus. It also contained megafauna fossils, which is really interesting and I found to be really cool that you could actually touch some of the fossils there. I think that with a bit more exposure and like you mentioned more variety of translated texts to english as well as other languages, this site has potential to become more popular in terms of tourism.

  3. ktorres24 says:

    I had honestly never heard of this museum. It sounds interesting to me because I am interested in evolution. I feel bad that you couldn’t read some of the things there but it is obvious you got a lot out of it. This post made me realize how many different sites there are that I don’t know of.

    • There are three early hominid sites in Asia – site of the Perak Man, site of the Peking Man, and site if the Java Man – that are inscribed as World Heritage Sites. The oldest dated, however, are in Africa 🙂

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