Archeological Finds: Human Specimens

Archeologists are always trying to find clues that provide a better understanding of how man lived in the past and what civilizations did to survive. Throughout the years, many excavations have occurred, producing a variety of interesting specimens. Some of these finds have included the bones and preserved bodies of human remains.


Java Man


Discovered by Eugene Dubois, a Homo erectus specimen was given the name of Pithecanthropus erectus, which was a technical way of describing an “ape man.” This find was also referred to as the Java Man. When Dubois uncovered this specimen, he did not find a complete skeleton. The Java Man consisted only of three teeth, a femur and a skullcap. Since the specimen is incomplete, many doubted that this was a true example of early man. For example, a lengthy 300+ page report was written, which did not support this find.


Located in a village in Central Java, a second Java Man was discovered. A skullcap that was about the same size as the first Java Man was found in 1936. Dubois’ excavations were conducted in 1891. These hominid remains were considered to be some of the oldest ever uncovered, until much older specimens were found within Kenya’s Great Rift Valley.


These finds were used to support some of the theories established by greats, such as Charles Darwin. Some stand firm that Dubois found what was considered “the missing link,” which is described as being the evolutionary link that connects apes to man. This has never been concretely established.


Kennewick Man


In Kennewick, Washington, the remains of a prehistoric man were discovered on the Columbia River banks. Referred to as the Kennewick Man, his skull was uncovered by individuals swimming in the river. His discovery was unintentional. The following years created a stir between Native American religious groups and archeologists. Five Native American groups believed the remains to be part of their own and wished to conduct a traditional burial. Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the groups had the right to make this appeal, which resulted in only one group seeking legal action. Since a cultural link could not be concluded, the remains could be used for further scientific analysis. A variety of scientists from all over the United States gathered to make determinations on the remains.


The scientists concluded that the Kennewick Man lived somewhere between 5,000 and 9,500 years ago. When he passed away, he was between the ages of 30-40. When his bones were analyzed, it was determined that during his lifetime, he had suffered a broken arm, as well as a broken rib that had healed over time. He also displayed a 2.2-inch spear point that was found inside his hipbone, which was dismissed as his cause of death.


His facial features were believed to be more of a Caucasoid appearance, which was viewed through digital reconstruction. Additional research revealed that the man may have possesses features that are closely associated with Polynesians or Ainu people. Studying his remains led to debates regarding the migration of various ethnicities into different territorial areas.