Lost in New York : Sambungmacan 3

File this one in the “learn something new everyday” category, or perhaps, the relearn something new. I was randomly searching the internet yesterday and stumbled across the story of Sambungmacan 3.


Sambungmacan 1 is a male skull that has been known for quite a while. Sambungmacan three surfaced in 2001. It had been discovered in 1977 by miners excavating sand from the Solo river and ended up in an antiquities shop in Jakarta. In 1997 an Indonesian paleoanthropologist was invited to authenticate the specimen and a brief description, some measurements, and some photo’s were published. In 1999 it turned up in a natural history store in New York. The owner recognized it as something different and took it to the American Museum of Natural History where it was examined by Eric Delson and Ian Tattersall among others. At that point its significance was realized and it was eventually returned to Indonesia in the care of Teuku Jacob.
Conroy mentions the episode in Reconstructing Human Origins and I had actually bookmarked the page with a note to follow up and find out more about the story. Obviously, I paid the note no attention after that or I would have written this post a lot sooner. At any rate a side view of Sambungmacan 3 is below.
Sambungmacan%203-a.JPG
And this is Sambungmacan 3 from above.
Sambungmacan%203.JPG
A number of articles have been written about Sambungmacan 3 and are freely downloadable:
Homo erectus newyorkensis: An Indonesian fossil rediscovered in Manhattan sheds light on the middle phase of human evolution
New fossil hominid calvaria from Indonesia – Sambungmacan 3
Endocast of Sambungmacan 3 (Sm 3): A new Homo erectus from Indonesia
The Sambungmacan 3 Homo erectus calvaria: A comparative morphometric and morphological analysis
This last article provoked some disagreement:
Squamotympanic fissure in the Ngandong and Sambungmacan hominids: A reply to Delson et al.
And the reply:
Mandibular fossa of Homo erectus: A response to Durband
I’m still working my way through all this material so I don’t have an opinion, yet, concerning who is right or wrong in the latter two papers…

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3 Responses

  1. Typo: s/photo’s/photos/

  2. Okay, but other than that, what did you think of the post?

  3. Thank you for the links concerning this fascinating skull. As I understand it, the Ngandong and Sambungmacan Homo erectus fossils indicate that there was evolution toward a large brain in all three Homo species late in the Paleolithic, that Homo erectus reached the low end of the normal range of Homo sapiens in that regard, upward of 1200 cc, while Homo neanderthalensis exceeded the normal range of H. sapiens in some cases. To me, that suggests that perhaps other types of modernity were also possible for all 3 Homo species, like basic art (dot and circle motifs, rows of lines) which is also seen universally in preschool H. sapiens in modern times; like basic speech (single word stage of communication, semantic relations which are organized two-word phrases somewhat more primitive than fully developed syntactical language); like tools that contain more than one component like hafted spears.

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