Shock waves are reverberating through the halls of evolution
at the recent redating of the Java Solo (Ngandong Beds) Homo
erectus fossil skulls. These alleged evolutionary ancestors
of modern humans were assumed to be old. The new data—a maximum
of 46,000 years before the present (YBP) with a probable date
of 27,000 YBP—strongly suggests that Homo erectus coexisted
with anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) long after
Homo erectus was supposed to have become extinct. These
finds conflict with the concept of human evolution.
The discovery was reported in Science, 13 December 1996,
by a team headed by Carl Swisher III and G. H. Curtis of the
Berkeley Geochronology Center. They dated two fossil sites in
central Java, the Solo (Ngandong) site and the Sambungmacan
site using two different dating methods, electron spin resonance
and mass spectrometric U-series. Through this project, Swisher
and his group were seeking new evidence for one of the most
vexing problems in anthropology—the origin of modern humans.
Since their discovery over 60 years ago, the Solo fossil skulls
have troubled evolutionists. The problem is that they have a
clear Homo erectus morphology (shape) but their geological
context seemed to demand a very late date. Evolution cannot
tolerate this combination. Although this same combination of
erectus-like fossils with a very late date exists in Australia,
evolutionists solved the problem there by arbitrarily calling
those erectus-like fossils Homo sapiens. This semantic
solution could not be applied to the Java Solo fossils because
most paleoanthropologists had already agreed upon their Homo
erectus status before the very recent date was determined.
Between 1931 and 1933, a Dutch team found human cranial remains
of 12 individuals in a 1/2-meter-thick sandstone deposit by
the Solo River. Two human leg bones were also found. Although
the site was only 50 by 100 meters square, over 25,000 vertebrate
fossil fragments were also found. Between 1976 and 1980, Gadjah
Mada University (Java) excavated an adjacent 25 by 14 meter
area recovering human cranial remains of two more individuals
some human pelvic fragments, various human artifacts, and an
additional 1200 vertebrate fossils. The human fossils recovered
are not complete skulls, but are called calvaria, calottes,
and cranial fragments. (A calvarium is a skull without the bones
of the face or lower jaw. A calotte is just the top of the skull.)
Since their initial discovery, every aspect of the interpretation
of these Solo fossils has been controversial. Early on, it was
obvious that the Mesolithic cultural assemblage found in association
with the fossils (which Kenneth Oakley called the "bone industry
of Azilian facies") would allow a date of 10,000 YBP or less,
since Australian aborigines continued to live at an essentially
Mesolithic cultural level until recently. 1
Evolutionists, seeing how awkward such a late date would be
for the theory of human evolution, responded to the cultural
evidence by claiming that the human fossils and the artifacts
were not in association and were not from the same stratigraphic
levels. This "after the fact" charge flies in the face of direct
eye-witness testimony. While it is true that the fossils were
found before many modern excavation techniques were in place,
the Dutch Geological Survey was in charge of the entire operation.
The famed paleoanthropologist, G. H. R. von Koenigswald, was
on hand many times, saw Skull VI (Ngandong 7) and Skull VIII
(Ngandong 11) in situ, excavated both of them, and described
the cultural items found with the skulls. 2
The history of the dating of the Solo skulls is colorful. Since
the original finds occurred well before the advent of radiometric
dating, almost all of the dating was based upon the fauna (animal
fossils) found with the skulls. The most recent age ascribed
to the fossils was about 150,000 to 100,000 YBP. These dating
estimates were in spite of the fact that all records regarding
the association of the human fossils and the fauna were lost
during World War II 3 and ". . . most of
the 25,000 fossils from the original Dutch excavations appear
to be lost." 4 The thought that
these erectus-like human fossils could possibly be only 100,000
years old made evolutionists uncomfortable, so some suggested
that the fossils and the fauna were not the same age, the human
fossils being much older. However, unpublished photographs of
the site taken by von Koenigswald clearly show that the human
fossils and the vertebrate fauna were in the same geological
Since evolutionists questioned the age of the fauna in the
original excavation, some of them toyed with "morphological
dating" by computing regression estimates of brain size on time.
The result obtained for the Solo people was between 463,000
and 790,000 YBP. 6 Later, magnetic polarity
determinations seemed to confirm a Middle Pleistocene date of
between 350,000 and 700,000 YBP. 7 The newer 1976 to
1980 excavations produced 1,200 vertebrate fossils. Based upon
this fauna, G. G. Pope estimated that the Solo humans could
possibly be as old as one million years. 8 It is understandable
why a date of 27,000 YBP for the Ngandong Solo people is a shock.
Another human fossil site 40 km upstream at Sambungmacan, thought
possibly to be as old as 1.3 million years, also gave a new
date of 27,000 YBP. 9
Classifying the Solo fossils has been as great a problem as
dating them. When they were first discovered, von Koenigswald
believed them to be "tropical Neanderthalers." In 1963, Bernard
Campbell classified them as Homo sapiens soloensis. Santa
Luca, in 1980, classified them as Homo erectus erectus, with
Milford Wolpoff declaring that they were not Homo erectus.
Still others called them "archaic Homo sapiens." Because
of their obvious similarity to the other Javanese and Chinese
"classic" Homo erectus material, most investigators today
recognize them as Homo erectus. The Solo fossils do,
however, have a larger cranial capacity than does the average
Homo erectus skull. For this reason, many evolutionists
could not resist the temptation to consider the Solo people
as "transitional" between Homo erectus and modern humans.
Unfortunately, since evolutionists believe that modern humans
arrived on the scene by 100,000 YBP, transitional fossils at
27,000 YBP will not fit.
The condition of the human skulls and the vertebrate fauna
argues against their being washed in from upstream. Beals and
Hoijer write: "The skulls were all found lying base upward without
signs of wear or movement." 10 Carleton Coon echoes
these facts: "The skulls were all lying base upward and were
in perfect condition. They had not been moved or rolled.'' 11 Swisher et al.
state that the nearest upstream mammalian fossil-bearing exposures
are 30 km away. He goes on to say that at the Solo site there
are ". . . a few articulated vertebrae and a few crania with
associated mandibles . . ." and that ". . . both hominid and
nonhominid crania show little evidence of abrasion because fragile
processes such as the pterygoid plates are preserved." 12
Further, human fossils at Sambungmacan, 40 km upstream, are
of the same young age. All of this indicates that the fossils
were found in their original location.
While at one point in the Science article there is equivocation
regarding the human fossils being washed in, elsewhere in the
same issue of Science Ann Gibbons writes: "As for the
flooding theory, Swisher's team points out that it's hard to
imagine how 12 crania and other human remains could have moved
to the same level and at two sites (Ngandong and Sambungmacan)."
13 Referring to the
possibility that the fossils might have washed into younger
beds, Time magazine says: "Swisher disagrees, arguing
that the remains are too well preserved—its fragile structures
are generally intact—to have been bumped around in a flood."
Many later researchers agree with the interpretation of the
site by von Koenigswald. The Solo (Ngandong) people were the
victims of cannibalism. He writes: "A vast number of different
bones of all the animal types were unearthed, but of human remains
only a very particular selection whose incidence was certainly
not natural." 15 All of the skulls
had their faces smashed, and all but two had the bottom of the
skulls broken open. Von Koenigswald calls them "skull-trophies,"
and likens them to the practice of modern head-hunters, such
as the Kyaks, who eat the brains to acquire the wisdom and skill
of the defeated foe. The skulls were placed there to mark the
area. "It seems that even today various tribes in New Guinea
demarcate their dwelling-or hunting-grounds in a similar manner.
They evidently suppose that the spirit dwelling in the skull
can help them defend a particular area against invaders." 16
Past evolutionist attempts to deny the Solo (Ngandong) people
a late date and coexistence with modern humans have been rather
successful. Now, the evidence for such coexistence is strong.
Chris Stringer (Natural History Museum, London), who holds (wrongly)
that the Neanderthals are also a separate species, says: "If
the dates are right, we have three different species coexisting
at the same time." 17 There is more bad
news ahead. Evolutionists must now face the fact that there
are many late-date Australian fossils almost identical to the
Solo (Ngandong) people.
Milford Wolpoff (University of Michigan), commenting on the
alleged evolution of an earlier australopithecine into Homo
erectus, states: "Disproof could be accomplished . . . by
showing that Homo erectus could be found earlier than
the first appearance of the proposed ancestral species. . .
." 18 Wolpoff is absolutely
right. That is the way paleoanthropology should work.
There is a scientific principle behind Wolpoff's statement.
It is this: "An evolutionary sequence is falsified when a specific
form in that sequence turns up woefully outside its proper evolutionary
time-frame." This is what the Solo (Ngandong) people have done.
 Kenneth P. Oakley, Frameworks
For Dating Fossil Man (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company,
1964) pp. 171-172, 251-252, 314, and chart between pages 170-171.
Kenneth P. Oakley, Man the Tool-Maker, sixth
edition (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1972) pp.
66, 70, 80.
 G. H. R. von Koenigswald, Meeting
Prehistoric Man, trans. by Michael Bullock (New York:
Harper Publ., 1956) p. 65-79.
 W. W. Howells, "Home erectus—Who,
When, and Where: A Survey," Yearbook of Physical Anthropology
23 (New York: Alan R. Liss, Inc., 1980) p. 5.
 C. C. Swisher III, W. J. Rink, S. C. Anton, H. P. Schwarcz,
G. H. Curtis, A. Suprijo, Widiasmoro, "Latest Homo erectus
of Java: Potential Contemporaneity with Homo sapiens in Southeast
Asia," Science 274 (13 December 1996) p. 1871.
 Swisher et al., p. 1871.
 Howells, p. 5, footnote.
 Rightmire 14, p. 192.
 Geoffrey G. Pope, "Ngandong (Solo River), " Encyclopedia
of Human Evolution and Prehistory, Ian Tattersall, Eric
Delson, and John Van Couvering, editors (New York: Garland
Publishing, 1988) p. 383.
 Swisher et al., p. 1873
 Ralph L. Beals and Harry Hoijer, An Introduction
to Anthropology, third edition (New York: The Macmillan
Company, 1965) p. 104.
 Carleton S. Coon, The Origin
of Races (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1962) p. 390.
 Swisher et al., p. 1871.
 Ann Gibbons, "Homo erectus
in Java: A 250,000-Year Anachronism," Science 274
(13 December 1996) p. 1841.
 Jeffrey Kluger, "Not So Extinct
After All," Time, December 23, 1996, p. 68.
 von Koenigswald p. 75.
 von Koenigswald p. 76.
 Gibbons p. 1841.
 Milford H. Wolpoff, Paleoanthropology (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1980) p. vi.
* Marvin Lubenow, M.S., Th.M., is the author of the significant
book on human origins, Bones of Contention.