The missing link between apes and humans

The story of the story of our ancestors

What are we looking for?

A Combination of a human-like body and ape-like brain?

In August 1856, laborers in a mining operation discovered human bones in Neanderthal, a small limestone valley in Germany. The bones were sent to, a science teacher, who immediately recognized that the bones were a previously unknown type of human. Scientists had never seen a specimen like it: the oval shaped skull with a low, receding forehead and distinct browridges, the thick, strong bones

In 1864 scientists realized that prior fossil discoveries, by in 1829 at Belgium, and in 1848 at Gibraltar were also Neanderthals.

Neanderthal fossils were discovered in 1856, but at the time it was not clear that they represented a different species from modern humans

Adding to our understanding of human origins is the life's work of National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Meave Leakey, as she continues her family's legacy of uncovering fossils of our ancient ancestors in East Africa.

in the 1920s and 1930s from China , in 1936 and 1970 in Indonesia, 1980s in Kenya,

Debate abounds as to whether the Asian fossils and those from Africa should be classified together as Homo erectus or if the African examples are different enough to be called differently

Out of Africa?

May be Homo erectus was endowed with a larger body than its ancestors, which helped it tolerate water loss and store food and water for longer periods

May be social and dietary changes allowed the early landfarer to carry food over long distances and move through hostile terrain

Skulls found in China and Indonesia

A remarkable story of dedication and luck

The most fascinating thing about Eugene Dubois is that he was the first person to ever deliberately search for fossils of human ancestors. Only a handful of fossil humans had already been discovered, and those were by chance!

A fossil ape that had been found in India also encouraged him to believe that Asia would be a good place to look for hominid fossils. Being Dutch, a Dutch colony like Indonesia was a convenient place for him to live and work.

In 1891, he first found a tooth, then a skull, and then a left thy bone on the Java island. He described the Java Fossil as neither ape nor human. Many scientists disagreed, They thought that the thy bone was human like but the skull was of a giant ape such as a gibbon. Some even said it looked like Neanderthal fossils. Dubois hid his fossils away.

More fossils were found in 1930s in China and Indonesia. It was clear to everyone else that all these fossils were very similar to Dubois' original find. In the 1950s they were all placed in the one species, Homo erectus

Initially, it was believed that the Chinese and Indonesian Home erectus originated from a single source in Africa. It may well be that the Chinese population arrived later than the Indonesian both came from a different source