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Homo erectus

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Model of Homo erectus at Westphalian Museum of Archaeology (Westfälisches Museum für Archäologie). Herne, Germany.

Homo erectus is the species name assigned to human fossils that evolutionists claim are transitional forms between australopithecines (apes) and both Neanderthals and modern humans. To date, more than 280 fossil individuals have been found that are identified with this group.[1] The species name means “erect or upright man” and was the name first put forth by Ernst Mayr to unify the classification of Asian fossils.

Creationists generally agree that all supposed ape-men fossils are, in fact, either ape or fully human. Species names within the taxonomic genus homo are viewed as fabricated classes invented to support evolutionary theory, and should be regarded as mere instruments of propaganda. The majority of Homo erectus fossils represent the populations of humans that lived following the global flood and the Tower of Babel, and should be considered true Homo sapiens.[2]



Although a formal definition of Homo erectus has not been established, the following characteristics are generally accepted.[3]

  • Skull low, broad, and elongated
  • Cranial capacity 750-1250 cc
  • Median sagittal ridge
  • Supraorbital ridges
  • Postorbital constriction
  • Receding frontal contour
  • Occipital bun or torus
  • Nuchal area extended for muscle attachment
  • Cranial wall usually thick overall
  • Brain case narrower than the zygomatic arch
  • Heavy facial architecture
  • Alveolar (maxilla) prognathism
  • Large jaw, wide ramus
  • No chin (mentum)
  • Teeth generally large
  • Postcranial heavy and thick


There are several problems with the assignment of Homo erectus as an evolutionary transitional form to Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. These include the absence of morphological distinction when compared to the full range of characteristics in modern humans, and overlapping timeframes of H. erectus with anatomically modern humans.

Morphological similarities

One of the primary defining characteristics of Homo erectus has been a skull with a thick wall, but until recently little data was present to support whether there was truly a difference between modern skulls and H. erectus. In 1994 a substantial comparison was conducted to determine if cranial thickness was a true criteria for identify H. erectus fossils.[4] The skulls of four modern Homo sapiens populations were studied; south Chinese, Romano-British, aboriginal Australians, and the famous Australian Kow Swamp remains - aborigines that were dated from 10,000 to 30,000 years ago. These modern skulls were contrasted against samples of Asian Homo erectus and so-called Chinese archaic Homo sapiens by measuring seven anatomical points on the skulls. Although the cranial-vault thickness was significantly different between modern Europeans and Chinese when compared to Homo erectus, the archaic Homo sapiens did not differ from Homo erectus at any of the seven anatomical points. More surprising were the contrasts between H. erectus and the modern and ancient native Australians. The Kow Swamp remains differed at only one of the seven anatomical points of the skull, and presently living Australian aborigines differed from Homo erectus in only four of the seven anatomical points on the skull.[5] Brown summarizes the implications of the findings:

Now that comparable data is available it appears clear that if H. sapiens includes all the people alive in the world today, their ancestors in the Late Pleistocene and “archaic” H. sapiens like Dali and Xujiayao then vault thickness can not be used to distinguish H. erectus from H. sapiens.[4]
Homo erectus was previously thought to produce babies with relatively small brain capacity. However the discovery of the pictured pelvis has shown that they were actually capable of birthing babies with a cranial circumference very close to the lower end of the range of our own species.[6]

When the cranial capacity of Homo erectus is compared with Homo sapiens the morphological distinctions blur even further. Homo erectus has a cranial capacity from 780 cc to about 1225 cc, whereas modern humans have a capacity from 700 cc all the way up to 2200 cc. Clearly H. erectus falls with the natural range of modern humans in not only vault thickness, but cranial capacity as well.[7] The close comparison was extended to newborns by a discovery in 2008 of a Homo erectus pelvis, which showed that their infants could have had a head much larger than previously thought. According to Sileshi Semaw, a paleoanthropologist at the Stone Age Institute and Indiana University-Bloomington, H. erectus infants could have had a head size of 318 mm in circumference, which is right at the lower end of the spectrum of modern day humans whose cranial circumferences at birth typically range from 320-370 millimeters.[6] Neanderthals have also been shown to fall within the range of modern humans, having a skull capacity ranging from 1200 cc to 1650 cc. In fact, the skull morphology of the Homo erectus is virtually identical to Neanderthal - differing only by size.[7]

Marvin Lubenow comments:

My own conclusion is that Homo erectus and Neandertal are actually the same: Homo erectus is the lower end, with regard to size, of a continuum that includes Homo erectus, early Homo sapiens, and Neandertal. The range of cranial capacities for fossil humans is in line with the range of cranial capacities for modern humans.[8]

This tremendous similarity between the various ancient human fossils causes considerable difficulty for the evolutionist who attempts to place the discoveries in various categories. The African early Homo sapiens have been referred to as "African Neanderthals", and Asian Homo erectus fossils have been called "Asian Neanderthals". In fact some scholars treat Neanderthals as a population of late Homo erectus, describing their skulls as an "enlarged and developed version of the Homo erectus skull".[7] Jerome Cybulski (National Museum of Man, Ottawa) speaks to the difficulties in characterizing H. erectus on morphological grounds:

Indeed, one may well wonder whether agreement will ever be reached as to which fossils do belong to or represent the taxon, and on what morphological-cum-phyologenetic grounds fossil hominids are or are not to be regarded as Homo erectus.[7]


Composite Human Fossil Chart. Illustrates the comparable dates assigned to Homo erectus, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, Neanderthals, and Early African/Asian Homo sapiens. Also shown are Australopithecus and Homo habilis.[9]

Skulls with Homo erectus-like features are found around the globe in location such as Europe, Asia, Australia, Indonesia, and Africa. Furthermore, researchers have shown that Homo erectus and Homo sapiens traits occur concurrently in the stratigraphic layer at many locations. Thick-vaulted and gracile (thin-vaulted) skulls are often found to co-occur in the same strata showing that they lived at the same time and place.[5]

In the 1980s paleontologists viewed Homo erectus as living between 400,000 and 1.5 million years ago (mya), but since that time at least 140 fossils have been found that are younger than this age-range and 32 fossils that date to be older. Garniss H. Curtis at the University of California, Berkeley dated the oldest fossils at Java (where Java Man was found) at 1.81 Mya, and the Java Solo Ngandong beds as being only 27,000 years old. [10] There are at least 78 Homo erectus fossils that have now been dated more recently than 30,000, the youngest yet discovered only 6000 years old. [11]

The extensive timeframe of Homo erectus fossils overlaps other hominids so extensively that it should void any attempt to claim an evolutionary sequence. For example, Homo erectus is almost universally held to have evolved from Homo habilis despite the fact that their fossils appear at roughly the same time (the oldest H. erectus fossil is dated at 1.95 mya and the oldest H. habilis fossil dated at just over 2.0 mya). Furthermore, they continued to coexists throughout the entire 500,000 year span when Homo habilis is said to have lived.[11] Such inconsistencies between the theory of evolution and the fossil evidence are often concealed. Marvin Lubenow warns in his book, Bones of Contention, about the way that evolutionists present the relationship between Homo habilis and Homo erectus..

Terms like Homo erectus and Homo habilis are convenient terms to use in reference to groups of fossil material. But it is obvious that when evolutionists give dates for Homo erectus that do not fit the fossil material, or when they say that Homo habilis evolved into Homo erectus, contrary to what the fossil material shows, they are using those terms in a manipulative manner without regard for the fossil material in those categories. It is not unusual in evolutionary charts to show Homo habilis somewhat below Homo erectus, implying that Homo habilis is earlier in time.[12]

Furthermore, H. erectus is shown to have lived alongside what are known as “early Homo sapiens” during their entire 700,000 year existence, and alongside Neanderthals throughout the 800,000 years of their history. And lastly, Homo erectus individuals have lived side by side with anatomically modern humans for 2 million years (according to evolutionary chronology).[13]

For Homo erectus to provide support as a transitional form between the australopithecines and modern humans, the dates assigned to erectus fossils should occur between these other groups with minimal overlap. The extensive timeframe during which H. erectus is found to exist effectively eliminates the possibility that they evolved into Homo sapiens. These discoveries illustrate significant problems with the evolutionary model. Not only do the dates show that H. erectus lived contemporaneously with anatomically modern humans, but remained virtually unchanged for almost two million years.

Nonevolutionary explanations

A number of nonevolutionary explanations have been put forth to account for the variations seen in some of the ancient humans. These include genetic drift in the small populations following the Tower of Babel language division, adaptations to diet and/or climate, and changes in the rate of skeletal maturation. Some may even be mere consequences of harsh living conditions in the immediate post-Flood period, which differed greatly from those of today.[5]

Beasley proposed that the longer life spans which persisted following the global flood are likely responsible. This longevity resulted in a prolonged duration of skeletal maturation of the early post-Flood humans, and facilitated the growth of thick cranial-vaults. With the much reduced life spans of humans generations after the flood, thick cranial-vaults became much less common.[14]


Java Man

Main Article: Java Man

Java Man was the common name for the first fossil evidence to be discovered of what is now called Homo erectus. It was found in 1891 by Eugene Dubois who was a former student of Ernst Haeckel. Dubois named the find Pithecanthropus erectus (erect ape-man).[15] Java Man is arguably the best-known human fossil, and was the evidence that first convinced many people that humans evolved from ape-like ancestors.[16] Since its discovery, there has been much controversy over both the identification and dating of the strata where the fossils were found, and whether the fossils belonged to the same species.

Peking Man Skull (replica) presented at Paleozoological Museum of China.

Peking Man

Main Article: Peking man

Peking Man is the common name for one of the original Homo erectus fossils to be discovered. It was unearthed between 1923–27 near Beijing China from which it gets its name (Beijing was previously written 'Peking'). It was originally announced to be a new hominid species based on the discovery of a single tooth and named Sinanthropus pekinensis. Later discoveries of several skull caps and jaw bones revealed that Peking man was very human-like and it was reclassified as Homo erectus pekinensis.[17]

Excavations under the supervision of Chinese archaeologists Yang Zhongjian, Pei Wenzhong, and Jia Lanpo uncovered 200 human fossils (including 6 nearly complete skullcaps) from more than 40 individual specimens. Excavation came to an end in 1937 with the Japanese invasion, but resumed after the war, and parts of another skull were found in 1966. The Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987. New excavations were started at the site in June 2009.[18]

Homo ergaster - Skull Khm-Heu 3733 discovered by Bernard Ngeneo in 1975 (Kenya)

Homo ergaster

Some have argued that certain Homo erectus fossils found in East Africa are a distinct species called Homo ergaster, the name being derived from the Ancient Greek ἐργαστήρ "workman". Many that except this species hold that they are the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens, rather than erectus. It is asserted that H. sapiens then migrated from Africa replacing Homo erectus (or archaic Homo sapiens) populations found in other parts of the world.[19] This model of human evolution is known as the Out-of-Africa theory, which is distinct from the competing view known as the Multiregional theory.[20] However, there remains considerable debate as to whether Homo ergaster should be considered a separate species from Homo erectus, and many in fact treat them one and the same.[21]

In short, H. ergaster does not show significant promise of lasting as a separate taxon due to several factors. It has not been shown to be significantly different from erectus to require the designation of a new hominid species, and it has not been shown to be closer to modern humans morphologically as has been claimed by some. At this time, ergaster basically means early H. erectus from Africa.[22]

In 2002, a skull was discovered in Ethiopia with distinctive Homo erectus features that was dated at 1 mya (by evolutionary chronology), supporting the earlier view that erectus lived in Africa when Homo sapiens are believed to have first evolved.[23] Carl Wieland from Creation Ministries International notes that this discovery simply highlights the subjectivity of human fossil interpretation and the tight morphological overlap between fossils that are often identified as separate species.[24]

Turkana Boy


"The foremost American experts on human brain evolution Dean Falk of the State University of New York at Albany and Ralph Holloway of Columbia University usually disagree, but even they agree that Broca's area is present in a skull from East Turkana known as 1470. Philip Tobias...renowned brain expert from South Africa concurs." Anthro Quest: The Leakey's Foundation News. No.43 (Spring 91) p.13

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  1. Lubenow, Marvin. Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004. p. 115.
  2. Homo Erectus — A Fabricated Class of 'Ape-Men' by Malcolm Bowden, Journal of Creation, Vol.3, 1988, pp. 152-153.
  3. Lubenow, p. 122
  4. 4.0 4.1 .Brown, P., cranial-vault thickness in Asian Homo erectus and Homo sapiens, in: Franzen, J.L., ed., 100 Years of Pithecanthropus: The Homo Erectus Problem, Courier Forschungs Institut Senckenberg 171, pp. 33–45, 1994.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 How different is the cranial-vault thickness of Homo erectus from modern man? by John Woodmorappe, Journal of Creation 14(1):10–13, April 2000.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Discovery Questions Intelligence of Human Ancestor National Science Foundation, Press Release 08-203, November 18, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Lubenow p. 128
  8. Lubenow p. 127
  9. Lubenow, p. 336
  10. Lubenow, p. 117
  11. 11.0 11.1 Lubenow, p. 119
  12. Lubenow, pp. 120-121
  13. Lubenow, p. 120
  14. Beasley, G.J., Archaic fossil human remains—an update, Journal of Creation 9(2):169–215, 1995.
  15. Perloff, James. Tornado in a Junkyard: The Relentless Myth of Darwinism. Burlington, MA: Refuge Books, 1999.
  16. Lubenow, p. 86.
  17. Lamb, Andrew. ‘Southwest Colorado Man’ and the year of the one-tooth wonders Creation Ministries International. 2007.
  18. Homo erectus pekinensis Wikipedia. Accessed January 12, 2012.
  19. Homo ergaster Wikipedia, Accessed September 18, 2011.
  20. Out-of-Africa versus the multiregional hypothesis Nature Education, Accessed September 18, 2011.
  21. Homo erectus by Dennis O'Neil. Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College, San Marcos, California.
  22. Homo ergaster, Accessed September 11, 2011.
  23. Skull may link pre-humans to modern man Cable News Network, March 22, 2002.
  24. Skull wars: new ‘Homo erectus’ skull in Ethiopia by Carl Wieland, Creation Ministries International, March 22, 2002.

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