Following the discovery of hominin fossils at Trinil (Java, Indonesia) in 1891 and 1892, Eug`ene Dubois named a new species, now known as Homo erectus. Although the main historical events are well-known, there appears to be no consensus regarding two important aspects of the naming of the species, including what constitutes the original publication of the name, and what is the name-bearing type specimen. These issues are addressed in this paper with reference to original sources and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. Our review confirms earlier studies that cite the published quarterly fieldwork report covering the 3rd quarter of 1892 as the original publication naming the species erectus. However, until recently, the correct publication year of 1893 has consistently been cited as 1892, and it has rarely been recognized that the author of the publication was anonymous, even though the author of the species is specifically named. Importantly, Dubois assigns all three hominin fossils found at Trinil up to that moment to the new species, explicitly stating that they belong to a single individual. The three fossils, a molar, a calotte, and a femur, therefore jointly constitute the original holotype. However, the femur most likely derives from younger strata than the other hominins and shows fully modern human-like morphology, unlike subsequently discovered H. erectus femora. Moreover, there is no consensus over the affinities of the molar, and if it is H. erectus rather than an extinct ape, there is no evidence that it belongs to the same individual as the calotte. Excluding these two fossils from the holotype, the calotte is the appropriate fossil to retain the role as name-bearing specimen.

, , , , ,
Journal of Human Evolution
Staff publications

Pop, E., Noerwidi, Sofwan, & Spoor, Fred. (2024). Naming Homo erectus: A review. Journal of Human Evolution, 190(103516). doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2024.103516

Full Text ( Final Version , 3mb )
Imposed Embargo until:
Fri, November 01 2024 at 00:00 (CET)