Homo erectus (literally "upright man") is an extinct hominin that lived between 1.8 million and 50,000 years ago. The first fossil found of this species (the type specimen) was a skullcap discovered in 1891 by Eugène Dubois. However, the species was not named until 1894, after a femur (thigh bone) was discovered not far from the skullcap. The femur was nearly identical to that of a modern human, prompting Dubois to name a new species: Pithecanthropus erectus (literally "upright apeman"). Both fossils were found in Trinil, Java. The type specimen was named "Trinil 2"and the femur "Trinil 3." They are more commonly known as "Java Man."
In 1927, Davidson Black named a new species Sinanthropus erectus (literally "Northern upright man"), based on a tooth discovered at Zhoukoudian near Bejing (Peking), China. The later discovery of 14 calvaria (skull caps), limb bones, and many more teeth strengthened his claim. One of these calvaria became better known as "Peking Man." As more fossils of erectus-like hominins were discovered, paleoanthropologists began to recognize the similarities between Pithecanthropus/Sinanthropus and specimens that had been assigned to the genus Homo. Eventually, both Pithecanthropus and Sinanthropus fossils were subsumed into the species Homo erectus.
The morphology of Homo erectus changed very little over its 1.8 million years of existence. Compared with australopithecines and earlier Homo, Homo erectus had smaller teeth, a shorter face, and a humanlike projecting nose. The numerous skulls that have been discovered show a significant increase in brain size compared with earlier hominins. On average, the cranial capacity of Homo erectus was about 900 cc, although its range (750 cc–1,250 cc) overlaps that of modern humans (1,000 cc–2,000 cc).
Compared with modern humans, Homo erectus possessed a robust and somewhat primitive-looking skull, face, and dentition. In general, the skull is long, and the forehead is low in profile. The face...
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