The story begins in the closing years of the last century, when a Dutchman named Eugene Dubois unearthed the fossilized remnants of what was later to become known as 'Java Man', near the East Javanese village of Trinil. In 1894, three years after the discovery, Dubois published an article in which he claimed that the remains belonged to a distant ancestor of modern man, who had lived almost a million years ago. He named the creature Pithecanthropus Erectus (L). The article created such an outcry among the scientific community, as well as the religious orthodoxy, that Dubois ended up re-burying his finds under his own house, where they stayed for the next thirty years.
Dubois had originally come to Indonesia, or the Dutch East Indies as it was called then, in 1887 as an army doctor stationed in Sumatra. Two years later, relieved of his medical duties, he was able to devote full time to the study of fossils, his main interest. Initial research began in the Sumatran caves but proved disappointing. Then, hearing of van Rietschoten's discoveries at Wajak, near Tulung Agung, he moved to East Java. It was here, on the banks of the Solo River in the Ngawi region, that Dubois dug up a child's jaw bone, a skull, and finally the female thigh bone which was to cause all the controversy.

During the next few years excavations continued in the Ngawi district. At Trinil a German scientist removed 10,000 cubic metres of earth, uncovering numerous fossilized animal remains but finding no further evidence of Java Man. At last, however, in 1931, more human fossils were found beside the Solo River, followed up by the discovery of a still older creature, Homo Mojokertoensis (L.), near the town of Mojokerto. The estimated age of the latter find was an incredible 1.9 million years.
Since then, evidence of early man has continued to be unearthed through the co-ordinated efforts of a number of Indonesian institutions, among them Surabaya's Airlangga University and the University of Gajah Mada in Yogyakarta. Trinil is still an important site and the remains of long extinct animal species are discovered annually, often by local farmers. The more important finds are preserved in a small museum close to the site where Eugene Dubois made his famous discovery 100 years ago.

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