Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago


Homo erectus is the founding early hominin species of Island Southeast Asia, and reached Java (Indonesia) more than 1.5 million years ago1,2. Twelve H. erectus calvaria (skull caps) and two tibiae (lower leg bones) were discovered from a bone bed located about 20 m above the Solo River at Ngandong (Central Java) between 1931 and 19333,4, and are of the youngest, most-advanced form of H. erectus5,6,7,8. Despite the importance of the Ngandong fossils, the relationship between the fossils, terrace fill and ages have been heavily debated9,10,11,12,13,14. Here, to resolve the age of the Ngandong evidence, we use Bayesian modelling of 52 radiometric age estimates to establish—to our knowledge—the first robust chronology at regional, valley and local scales. We used uranium-series dating of speleothems to constrain regional landscape evolution; luminescence, 40argon/39argon (40Ar/39Ar) and uranium-series dating to constrain the sequence of terrace evolution; and applied uranium-series and uranium series–electron-spin resonance (US–ESR) dating to non-human fossils to directly date our re-excavation of Ngandong5,15. We show that at least by 500 thousand years ago (ka) the Solo River was diverted into the Kendeng Hills, and that it formed the Solo terrace sequence between 316 and 31 ka and the Ngandong terrace between about 140 and 92 ka. Non-human fossils recovered during the re-excavation of Ngandong date to between 109 and 106 ka (uranium-series minimum)16 and 134 and 118 ka (US–ESR), with modelled ages of 117 to 108 thousand years (kyr) for the H. erectus bone bed, which accumulated during flood conditions3,17. These results negate the extreme ages that have been proposed for the site and solidify Ngandong as the last known occurrence of this long-lived species.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Rent or buy this article

Get just this article for as long as you need it


Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: Location of Java with H. erectus sites and key study sites on the terraces.
Fig. 2: Cross-sections of Ngandong site, showing the stratigraphic context and the location of our dating samples.
Fig. 3: A regional chronology for the Ngandong evidence, summarizing the results of our approach.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are included in the Supplementary Information. Additional data are available from the corresponding authors upon reasonable request.

Code availability

The Oxcal code used for the Bayesian model in this study is included in Supplementary Table 15.


  1. Larick, R. et al. Early Pleistocene 40Ar/39Ar ages for Bapang Formation hominins, Central Jawa, Indonesia. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 98, 4866–4871 (2001).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Zaim, Y. et al. New 1.5 million-year-old Homo erectus maxilla from Sangiran (Central Java, Indonesia). J. Hum. Evol. 61, 363–376 (2011).

    MathSciNet  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Huffman, O. F., de Vos, J., Berkhout, A. W. & Aziz, F. Provenience reassessment of the 1931–1933 Ngandong Homo erectus (Java), confirmation of the bonebed origin reported by the discoverers. Paleoanthropology 2010, 1–60 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Oppenoorth, W.F.F. Een nieuwe fossiele mensch van Java. Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk Nederlandsch Aardrijkskundig Genootschap XLIX, 704–708 (1932).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Frankel, M. Notes from an excavation. Nature (2010).

  6. Santa Luca, A. P. The Ngandong Fossil Hominids: A Comparative Study of a Far Eastern Homo erectus Group Yale University Publications in Anthropology 78 (Yale Peabody Museum, 1980).

  7. Rightmire, G. P. The Evolution of Homo erectus: Comparative Anatomical Studies of an Extinct Human Species (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1990).

  8. Schwartz, J. H. & Tattersall, I. The Human Fossil Record: Volume Four – Craniodental Morphology of Early Hominids (Genera Australopithecus, Paranthropus, Orrorin) and Overview (Wiley, 2005).

  9. Swisher, C. C. III et al. Latest Homo erectus of Java: potential contemporaneity with Homo sapiens in southeast Asia. Science 274, 1870–1874 (1996).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Bartstra, G.-J. et al. Ngandong man: age and artifacts. J. Hum. Evol. 17, 325–337 (1988).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Rizal, Y. Die Terrasse Entlang des Solo-Flusses in Mittel und Ost-Java, Indonesien. PhD thesis, Universität zu Köln (1998).

  12. Grün, R. & Thorne, A. Dating the Ngandong humans. Science 276, 1575–1576 (1997).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Yokoyama, Y., Falguères, C., Sémah, F., Jacob, T. & Grün, R. Gamma-ray spectrometric dating of late Homo erectus skulls from Ngandong and Sambungmacan, Central Java, Indonesia. J. Hum. Evol. 55, 274–277 (2008).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Indriati, E. et al. The age of the 20 meter Solo River terrace, Java, Indonesia and the survival of Homo erectus in Asia. PLoS ONE 6, e21562 (2011).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Ciochon, R. L. et al. Rediscovery of the Homo erectus bed at Ngandong: site formation of a late Pleistocene hominin site in Asia. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 48, 106 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  16. Sambridge, M., Grün, R. & Eggins, S. U-series dating of bone in an open system: the diffusion-absorption-decay model. Quat. Geochronol. 9, 42–53 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Huffman, O. F. et al. Mass death and lahars in the taphonomy of the Ngandong Homo erectus bonebed, and volcanism in the hominin record of eastern Java. Paleoanthropology 2010, abstr. A14 (2010).

    Google Scholar 

  18. Westaway, M. C. Preliminary observations on the taphonomic processes at Ngandong and some implications for a late Homo erectus survivor model. Tempus 7, 189–193 (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Westaway, M., Jacob, T., Aziz, F., Otsuka, H. & Baba, H. Faunal taphonomy and biostratigraphy at Ngandong, Java, Indonesia and its implications for the late survival of Homo erectus. Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. 120, abstr. 222–223 (2003).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Westaway, M. C. & Groves, C. P. The mark of ancient Java is on none of them. Archaeol. Ocean. 44, 84–95 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Jenkins, K. et al. New excavations of a Late Pleistocene bonebed and associated MSA artifacts from Rusinga Island, Kenya. Paleoanthropology 2012, abstr. A17 (2012).

    Google Scholar 

  22. Westaway, K. E. et al. Age and biostratigraphic significance of the Punung rainforest fauna, East Java, Indonesia, and implications for Pongo and Homo. J. Hum. Evol. 53, 709–717 (2007).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. de Vos, J. The Pongo faunas from Java and Sumatra and their significance for biostratigraphical and paleo-ecological interpretations. Proc. Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, Series B 86, 417–425 (1983).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Railsback, L. B., Gibbard, P. L., Head, M. J., Voarintsoa, N. R. G. & Toucanne, S. An optimized scheme of lettered marine isotope substages for the last 1.0 million years, and the climatological nature of isotope stages and substages. Quat. Sci. Rev. 111, 94–106 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  25. Joordens, J. C. et al. Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool production and engraving. Nature 518, 228–231 (2015).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  26. Brumm, A. et al. Age and context of the oldest known hominin fossils from Flores. Nature 534, 249–253 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Ingicco, T. et al. Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago. Nature 557, 233–237 (2018).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Sutikna, T. et al. Revised stratigraphy and chronology for Homo floresiensis at Liang Bua in Indonesia. Nature 532, 366–369 (2016).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Détroit, F. et al. A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines. Nature 568, 181–186 (2019).

    ADS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Jacobs, G. S. et al. Multiple deeply divergent Denisovan ancestries in Papuans. Cell 177, 1010–1021 (2019).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  31. Suminto, M. M., Sidarto, Maryanto, S., Susanto, E. E., Aziz, S. F., Christiana, I., & Fitriani, E. A Study of the Solo River Terraces from Kerek to Karsono: Ngawi and Bojonegoro Regions, East Java (Geological Research and Development Centre, 2004).

  32. Sidarto & Morwood, M. J. Solo River terrace mapping in the Kendeng Hills area, Java: use of landsat imagery and digital elevation model overlays. J. Sumber Daya Geologi 14, 196–207 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  33. Simandjuntak, T. O. & Barber, A. J. in Tectonic Evolution of Southeast Asia (Geological Society Special Publication No. 106) (eds Hall, R. & Blundell, D. J.) 185–201 (Geological Society of London, 1996).

  34. Berghuis, H. W. K. & Troelstra, S. R. Plio-Pleistocene foraminiferal biostratigraphy of the eastern Kendeng zone (Java, Indonesia): the Marmoyo and Sumberingin sections. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 528, 218–231 (2019).

    Google Scholar 

  35. Zhou, H. Y., Zhao, J. X., Wang, Q., Feng, Y. X. & Tang, J. Speleothem-derived Asian summer monsoon variations in central China during 54–46 ka. J. Quat. Sci. 26, 781–790 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  36. Clark, T. R. et al. Discerning the timing and cause of historical mortality events in modern Porites from the Great Barrier Reef. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 138, 57–80 (2014).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Ludwig, K. R. User’s Manual for Isoplot 3.75. A Geochronological Toolkit for Microsoft Excel (Berkeley Geochronology Center Special Publication No. 5) (Berkeley Geochronological Center, 2012).

  38. Cheng, H. et al. The half-lives of uranium-234 and thorium-230. Chem. Geol. 169, 17–33 (2000).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  39. Eggins, S. M. et al. In situ U-series dating by laser-ablation multi-collector ICPMS: new prospects for Quaternary geochronology. Quat. Sci. Rev. 24, 2523–2538 (2005).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  40. Morwood, M. J. et al. Archaeology and age of a new hominin from Flores in eastern Indonesia. Nature 431, 1087–1091 (2004).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Morwood, M. J. et al. Further evidence for small-bodied hominins from the Late Pleistocene of Flores, Indonesia. Nature 437, 1012–1017 (2005).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Westaway, K. E. et al. An early modern human presence in Sumatra 73,000–63,000 years ago. Nature 548, 322–325 (2017).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Huntley, D. J., Godfrey-Smith, D. I. & Thewalt, M. L. W. Optical dating of sediments. Nature 313, 105–107 (1985).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  44. Westaway, K. E. & Roberts, R. G. A dual-aliquot regenerative-dose protocol (DAP) for thermoluminescence (TL) dating of quartz sediments using the light-sensitive and isothermally stimulated red emissions. Quat. Sci. Rev. 25, 2513–2528 (2006).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  45. Spooner, N. A. & Franklin, A. D. Effect of the heating rate on the red TL of quartz. Radiat. Meas. 35, 59–66 (2002).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  46. Murray, A. S. & Mejdahl, V. Comparison of regenerative-dose single-aliquot and multiple-aliquot (SARA) protocols using heated quartz from archaeological sites. Quat. Sci. Rev. 18, 223–229 (1999).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  47. Huot, S., Buylaert, J.-P. & Murray, A. S. Isothermal thermoluminescence signals from quartz. Radiat. Meas. 41, 796–802 (2006).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  48. Thomsen, K. J., Murray, A. S., Jain, M. & Botter-Jensen, L. Laboratory fading rates of various luminescence signals from feldspar-rich sediment extracts. Radiat. Meas. 43, 1474–1486 (2008).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  49. Hütt, G., Jaek, I. & Tchonka, J. Optical dating: K-feldspars optical response stimulation spectra. Quat. Sci. Rev. 7, 381–385 (1988).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  50. Buylaert, J. P., Murray, A. S., Thomsen, K. J. & Jain, M. Testing the potential of an elevated temperature IRSL signal from K-feldspar. Radiat. Meas. 44, 560–565 (2009).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  51. Murray, A. S., Buylaert, J. P., Thomsen, K. J. & Jain, M. The effect of preheating on the IRSL signal from feldspar. Radiat. Meas. 44, 554–559 (2009).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  52. Thiel, C. et al. Luminescence dating of the Stratzing loess profile (Austria)—testing the potential of an elevated temperature post-IR IRSL protocol. Quat. Int. 234, 23–31 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  53. Thomsen, K. J., Murray, A. S. & Jain, M. Stability of IRSL signals from sedimentary K-feldspar samples. Geochronometria 38, 1–13 (2011).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  54. Stokes, S. et al. Alternative chronologies for late Quaternary (last interglacial–Holocene) deep sea sediments via optical dating of silt-sized quartz. Quat. Sci. Rev. 22, 925–941 (2003).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  55. Mejdahl, V. Thermoluminescence dating: beta-dose attenuation in quartz grains. Archaeometry 21, 61–72 (1979).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  56. Feathers, J. K. & Migliorini, E. Luminescence dating at Katanda—a reassessment. Quat. Sci. Rev. 20, 961–966 (2001).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  57. Huntley, D. J. & Baril, M. R. The K content of the K-feldspars being measured in optical dating or in thermoluminescence dating. Ancient TL 15, 11–13 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  58. Huntley, D. J. & Hancock, R. G. V. The Rb contents of the K-feldspars being measured in optical dating. Ancient TL 19, 43–46 (2001).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  59. Prescott, J. R. & Hutton, J. T. Cosmic-ray contributions to dose rates for luminescence and ESR dating: large depths and long-term time variations. Radiat. Meas. 23, 497–500 (1994).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  60. Rivera, T. A., Storey, M., Schmitz, M. D. & Crowley, J. L. Age intercalibration of 40Ar/39Ar sanidine and chemically distinct U/Pb zircon populations from the Alder Creek Rhyolite Quaternary geochronology standard. Chem. Geol. 345, 87–98 (2013).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  61. Brumm, A. et al. Hominins on Flores, Indonesia, by one million years ago. Nature 464, 748–752 (2010).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  62. Storey, M., Roberts, R. G. & Saidin, M. Astronomically calibrated 40Ar/39Ar age for the Toba supereruption and global synchronization of late Quaternary records. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, 18684–18688 (2012).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  63. Eggins, S., Grün, R., Pike, A. W. G., Shelley, A. & Taylor, L. 238U, 232Th profiling and U-series isotope analysis of fossil teeth by laser ablation-ICPMS. Quat. Sci. Rev. 22, 1373–1382 (2003).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  64. Grün, R. et al. U-series and ESR analyses of bones and teeth relating to the human burials from Skhul. J. Hum. Evol. 49, 316–334 (2005).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  65. Grün, R. et al. ESR and U-series analyses of enamel and dentine fragments of the Banyoles mandible. J. Hum. Evol. 50, 347–358 (2006).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  66. Grün, R., Aubert, M., Joannes-Boyau, R. & Moncel, M. H. High resolution analysis of uranium and thorium concentrations as well as U-series isotope distributions in a Neanderthal tooth from Payre using laser ablation ICP-MS. Geochim. Cosmochim. Acta 72, 5278–5290 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  67. Grün, R. et al. ESR and U-series analyses of teeth from the palaeoanthropological site of Hexian, Anhui Province, China. J. Hum. Evol. 34, 555–564 (1998).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  68. Grün, R., Eggins, S., Kinsley, L., Moseley, H. & Sambridge, M. Laser ablation U-series analysis of fossil bones and teeth. Palaeogeogr. Palaeoclimatol. Palaeoecol. 416, 150–167 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  69. Joannes-Boyau, R. & Grün, R. A comprehensive model for CO2 - radicals in fossil tooth enamel: implications for ESR dating. Quat. Geochronol. 6, 82–97 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  70. Joannes-Boyau, R. Detailed protocol for an accurate non-destructive direct dating of tooth enamel fragment using electron spin resonance. Geochronometria 40, 322–333 (2013).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  71. Joannes-Boyau, R., Duval, M. & Bodin, T. MCDoseE 2.0 A new Markov chain Monte Carlo program for ESR dose response curve fitting and dose evaluation. Quat. Geochronol. 44, 13–22 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  72. Shao, Q., Bahain, J. J., Dolo, J. M. & Falguères, C. Monte Carlo approach to calculate US-ESR age and age uncertainty for tooth enamel. Quat. Geochronol. 22, 99–106 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  73. Guérin, G., Mercier, N. & Adamiec, G. Dose rate conversion factors: update. Ancient TL 29, 5–8 (2011).

    Google Scholar 

  74. Bronk Ramsey, C. Radiocarbon calibration and analysis of stratigraphy: the OxCal program. Radiocarbon 37, 425–430 (1995).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research, including the Solo River survey and the Sembungan and Menden terrace excavations, was funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP1093049) to K.E.W. and (DP0343334 and DP0770234) to M.J.M. The 2008–2010 excavations at Ngandong were supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (ICRG-92), University of Iowa (UI) Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research (CGRER), UI Office of the President, UI Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the UI Office of the Vice-President for Research (to R.L.C.). The Menden excavations were financially supported by the Geological Survey Institute in Bandung (GSI). Laboratory costs were funded, in part, by the Human Evolution Research Fund at the University of Iowa Foundation. The 40Ar/39Ar dating was funded by the Villum Foundation. The authors acknowledge the invaluable support provided by A. D. Wirakusaman, and the support of E. A. Subroto. Excavations at Sembungan were undertaken under a recommendation letter from the Provincial Government of West Java to the Governor of the Central Java Province no. 070.10/237; a recommendation letter from the latter to the local government of the Blora Regency no. 070.10/237; and a research permit issued by the Blora Regency no. 071/457/2005. Excavations at Ngandong were carried out with the permission and recommendation of Wahyu, Head of the Foreign Researchers Licensing Secretariat of the State Ministry of Research and Technology (SMRT), which issued research permits 03799/SU/KS/2006, 1718/FRP/SM/VII/2008, and 04/TKPIPA/FRP/SM/IV/2010 for the fieldwork at Ngandong. The excavations at Sembungan and the Menden Terrace site in the Blora Regency were carried out under research permit no. 2785/FRP/SM/XI/2008. We thank K. M. Patel for help with figure creation and editorial assistance with the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



Y.R., Y.Z., E.A.B. III, O.F.H., R.L.C., R.G., A., M.E.S., R.L., R.S. and S.P. carried out the 2008 and 2010 excavations at Ngandong, organized by Y.Z. and R.L.C. The Solo River survey and Sembungan and Menden terrace excavations were carried out by K.E.W., M.J.M., G.D.v.d.B., Sidarto, I.K., M.W.M., F.A. and Suminto. Dating of samples and age modelling was conducted by K.E.W., R.G., R.J.-B., R.M.B., M.S., J.-x.Z. and faunal analysis by R.S., J.-P.Z. and G.D.v.d.B. M.W.M. analysed the stone artefacts from Sembungan. This manuscript was written and edited by K.E.W., R.L.C., M.C.W., O.F.H., G.D.v.d.B., E.A.B. III and R.L. with sections of the  Methods and Supplementary Information written by K.E.W., O.F.H., R.L.C., E.A.B. III, R.G., R.M.B., J.-x.Z., M.W.M. and M.S. All authors commented on and contributed to the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Kira E. Westaway or Russell L. Ciochon.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature thanks Robin Dennell, James K. Feathers, Edward J. Rhodes and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Fig. 1 Evolutionary and geomorphical history of region.

The landscape evolutionary stages that created the Solo River terraces. Drawn from refs. 2,3 on a topographical map from the USGS EROS. a, More-than 500-ka drainage from the proto-Merapi and Lawu volcanic highlands formed a lake or lagoon from which the proto-Solo River drained to the south (blue arrow), close to the present-day Pacitan region, and another branch flowed to the north of Lawu. By at least 1.5 million years ago, the Southern Mountains to the south and the Kendeng anticlinorium to the north were slowly emerging, forming the Gunung Sewu, and the Kendeng Hills (previously the Randublantung marine embayment2), respectively. b, By about 500 ka, the seismically uplifted Southern Mountains had blocked the southern exit of the Solo River to the ocean, and the area was dominated by trunk streams of the Solo River. c, Between about 500 and 316 ka, the Solo River abandons its southern trunk stream and extends its northern branch, where it is diverted to the west and northeast and carves an initial crossing through the Kendeng Hills to form the Solo River gap, and drain into the ocean to the north of Surabaya. d, Between about 316 and 31 ka, the uplifting Kendeng anticlinorium and the drainage from the Madiun Basin energized the Solo River, causing incision and forming the Solo River sequence of terraces (white parallel lines). e, Present-day Solo Basin and known fossil sites on exposed terraces. f, A digital elevation model31,32, comprising a satellite image overlying a topographical map of the section of the Solo River system from Kerek village in the south to Sunggun village in the north (USGS Landsat). g, The same digital elevation model, with the classification scheme for the Solo River terraces with the upper, middle, lower and lowermost terraces identified. This image includes the key terrace sites that are sampled in this study; Kerek (upper), Padasmalang (middle), Sembungan (lower), Nglebak (lowermost) and Menden (outside of the Kendeng Hills, but contemporaneous with the upper and middle terraces), and the key fossil site of Ngandong (lower). The white dashed line indicates the limits of the Kendeng Hills. The Menden terrace lies outside of this divide, as does the westward-bearing Solo River and the site of Trinil.

Extended Data Fig. 2 Terrace-site stratigraphy and luminescence sampling.

a, Map of the Kendeng Hills section of the Solo River from Ngawi to Menden, displaying the location of the six studied sites. Each site has a smaller inset showing the site locations, stratigraphic sections of the strath terraces and sampling locations for luminescence dating. b, Ngandong; the inset for the Ngandong site is shown in more detail to identify the exact location of the sampling site within the context of previous excavations. c, Sembungan excavation I. d, Sembungan excavation II. e, Menden. f, Nglebak. g, Padasmalang. h, Kerek. i, Three-dimensional slice of the Solo River valley, showing the terrace sequences and resulting downcutting rates (derived from 21 terrace samples (n = 21), mean ages with uncertainties presented at 1σ) plotted according to elevation and distance away from the river. The associated downcutting rates have been presented for each terrace, and for the river system as a whole.

Extended Data Fig. 3 Stratigraphy and artefacts of the Sembungan excavations.

a, Map of the Sembungan terrace, showing the lithology of the terrace and the location of the terrace rise in relation to the Solo River. The bottom-right inset shows the locations of the excavations I, II and V. b, A profile of the terrace along the A–B transect from A (marked by a red dashed line), showing the location of the sand quarry excavations in relation to the river. c, The west baulk of excavation I (marked on the inset in A), showing the stratigraphic layers and location of the stone artefact concentration (red dashed line at the base of the section). Layer J, very coarse sand; layer I, brown silt; layer H, cross-bedded coarse pebbly sand; layer G, lenses of siltstone; layer F, disturbed; layer E, massive siltstone; layer D, caliche palaeosol. di, Stone artefacts excavated in situ from Sembungan. d, Obsidian flake. e, Chert flake with unifacial retouching to the ventral surface across the proximal end, removing the point of force application. f, Chalcedony flake. g, h, Chalcedony centripetal cores. i, Quartz crystal cluster. Scale bars, 30 mm. j, A stone tool in situ from the Sembungan excavation V. k, Excavation I (inset in a). l, Excavation II (inset in a).

Extended Data Fig. 4 Menden stratigraphy and fossils.

a, The quarry site of Blora on the Menden terrace near Sunggu (Central Java, Indonesia), to the north of the Kendeng Hills. The red dashed lines depict mega cross-bedding in the fluvial terrace. The vertical blue lines correspond to the stratigraphic section shown in b the yellow dashed line depicts the landslide scarp, and the black box shows the location of an almost-complete elephant skeleton. b, The stratigraphy of the Menden terrace according to logs A and B (marked on a). The upper a1, a2 and b layers represent cross-laminated sands and gravels, and the lower c–g layers represent cross-bedded pebbly sandstones. The relative location of the elephant skeleton can be seen by the fossil symbol. c, The excavation of the Menden terrace to recover the elephant skeleton (Elephas hysudrindicus)—a rare elephant species, endemic to Java. d, Site plan of the partial E. hysudrindicus skeleton excavated from the Menden terrace. Thick dashed line indicates extension of the excavation. Red dashed line indicates the boundary of the quarry wall at the time the fossil was discovered. All fossils recovered south of this boundary were found in a landslide at the foot of the quarry wall. 1, partial skull; 2, right tusk; 3, left tusk; 4, mandible; 5, cervical vertebrae; 6, thoracic vertebrae; 7, lumbar vertebrae; 8, caudal vertebrae; 9, right scapula; 10, right humerus; 11, right radius; 12, right carpals; 13, right pelvis; 14, right femur; 15, right tibia; 16, right fibula; 17, right patella; 18, right pes (articulated); 19, left pelvis; 20, left tibia; 21, left radius; 22, left tarsals; 23, left scapula fragment; 24, left humerus; pale yellow bones are ribs. e, The right pelvis and femur of the elephant in articulation, lying next to the left tibia and fibula and tarsals. f, The broken lower jaw of the elephant, with teeth, recovered from the landslide. g, The skull of the elephant in cross-section, as found in the landslide scar. Convoluted sediment layers can be seen below the skull.

Extended Data Fig. 5 History of H. erectus excavations at Ngandong.

a, Aerial view of Ngandong, created from an unpublished map produced by the Geological Survey of the Netherlands Indies, who discovered the site and documented the unearthing of 14 H. erectus specimens. b, Extent of the 27-month-long, 1931–1933 excavations, including H. erectus finds3. The excavations produced about 25,000 fossils from the Ngandong terrace (originally referred to as the 20-m terrace) deposits3. c, Redisplay and translation of an original stratigraphic profile, published by the Geological Survey of the Netherlands Indies, showing the first four H. erectus discoveries made in 19313,4. d, Day-of-discovery photograph of Ngandong VI (Ng 7), which is a whole fossil calvaria3. e, Plan-view drawing of the excavation square that included Ngandong VI, embedded in a river deposit of very coarse-grained volcaniclastic sand, along with marl cobbles and other vertebrate fossils3. f, Location of the site in the greater Ngandong area. g, Total data station mapping allowed the 1931–1933 excavated area to be repositioned on the landscape, including the 1931–1933 H. erectus discovery points (Extended Data Fig. 6). Panels af are redrawn from a previous publication3.

Extended Data Fig. 6 Photographs of 2008 and 2010 excavations at Ngandong including fossil discoveries.

a, View of Ngandong site before the 2008 excavation, facing northwest. The orange string line marks the extent of the 1931–1933 excavations3. b, Collection of samples for optically stimulated luminescence dating, from facies B and C in pit A from 2008 (excavation unit H10a of the 2010 excavation). c, Bovid scapula and other fossils found in facies C in H10a from 2010. d, Excavations underway in excavation units H10a (foreground) and H10c (being dug) in 2010. e, Stratigraphy seen in the northwest wall of excavation unit H10a in 2010. Facies E is seen above the remnant of facies A, B, C and D, which are visible in the bottom half of this section. f, Exposed bone bed in facies A and C in excavation unit G09 from 2010. g, Fossils collected during 2010 excavation. Photographs a, c and e are by O.F.H. All other photographs are by R.L.C.

Extended Data Fig. 7 Fauna from Ngandong recovered during the 2008–2010 excavations.

a, Cervid antler, cf. Axis sp., specimen NDG 2306. b, Lower right M3, cf. Bos sp., specimen NDG 1134. c, Bovid incisor (Ix), cf. Bubalus sp. NDG 1106. d, Bovid cervical vertebra (atlas), specimen NDG 2149. e, Bovid tooth (Bubalus sp.), specimen NDG 1131. f, Cervid tooth, cf. Cervus sp., specimen NDG 2074. g, Bovid tooth (Bubalus sp.), specimen NDG 1038. h, Bovid tooth (Bubalus sp.), specimen NDG 2569. i, Bovid tooth (Bubalus sp.), specimen NDG 1163. j, Artiodactyl canon bone, specimen NDG 2148. k, Artiodactyl hoof, specimen NDG 2199. Specimens NDG-1038, NDG-1163 and NDG-2569 (e, g and i) provided results for US–ESR age calculations (Extended Data Fig. 10). All photographs are by J.-P.Z.

Extended Data Fig. 8 A comparison of red thermoluminescence and pIR-IRSL luminescence data for sample NDG-1.

a, Quartz red thermoluminescence isothermal decays, showing a natural and regenerative decay. b, The dose response of aliquot A of the DAP technique with a De value of 185 ± 53 Gy. The points represent the mean with s.d. uncertainties (too small to see at this scale). c, The dose response of the subtracted aliquot B of the DAP technique with a De value of 170 ± 53 Gy. The points represent the mean value with an error as a s.d. of the fit (too small to see at this scale). d, Photographs of the luminescence emitted by a sample from the Ngandong terrace (NDG-1) compared to a sample from the Wae Raceng terrace in Flores (WR-1). The Flores terrace is so bright it has bleached the photographic paper, whereas the Ngandong terrace is much dimmer but the red luminescence emissions are clearly visible. e, Feldspar pIR-IRSL decays for sample NDG-1, showing the natural and regenerative decays. A long stimulation time is required to remove all of the pIR-IRSL signal. f, A dose–response curve for the sample NDG-1 with a De value of 150 ± 4 Gy. Each dose point represents the mean value with s.d. uncertainties (too small to see at this scale). g, Fading tests for the sample NDG-1, comparing the fading of the infrared signal at 50 °C (IR50) with the fading with the pIR-IRSL signal at 270 °C (pIR-IRSL270)—demonstrating the isolation of a very small fading signal. The points represent the median value with a standard error. h, Radial plot of the NDG-1 single-aliquot data.

Extended Data Fig. 9 U-series-age depth dating of bone.

al, Fossil bone recovered from the Ngandong excavations in 2010, displaying the track lines created by the LA-ICP-MS for U-series-age depth modelling. Bones were recovered from facies A and C. Figure 2 gives the locations of the bones. Specimen numbers (NDG) for each bone are listed in white in the top right corner.

Extended Data Fig. 10 Summary of the US–ESR dating protocol, and results for sample NDG-1038.

a, Left, spectra of the merged signal increasing with irradiation steps. Top right, double saturated exponential dose–response curve of NDG-1038, using the MCDoseE 2.0 program71. Bottom right, dose equivalent distribution, using the MCDoseE 2.0 program71. b, Angular response of the enamel fragment in the ESR spectrometer at various irradiation steps from left to right and top to bottom: natural, 380 s, 1,800 s and 7,200 s. c, Determination of the NOCOR percentage in the angular response after subtracting the natural signal70. d, Uranium-uptake model in both enamel (red) and dentine (black) used to calculate the US–ESR dating of NDG-1038. e, US–ESR age distribution for NDG-1038 using a previously published program72. fh, Photographs of the three bovid molar teeth. f, NDG-1038. g, NDG-11163. h, NDG-2569. These teeth were used for the direct dating by US–ESR of the Ngandong bone bed, with indication of U-series measurement locations. Teeth were sectioned to expose the various dental tissues. Numbers in white circles correspond to the dentine, and numbers in blue circles correspond to the enamel measurements. Results for each laser spot can be found in the Supplementary Table 8.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

This file contains supplementary sections 1-11.

Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Rizal, Y., Westaway, K.E., Zaim, Y. et al. Last appearance of Homo erectus at Ngandong, Java, 117,000–108,000 years ago. Nature 577, 381–385 (2020).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing