There has been debate in recent years concerning the significance of the mandibular fossa morphology in the Ngandong and Sambungmacan hominids. These fossils lack a postglenoid process and their squamotympanic fissure runs along the apex of the fossa for its entire length. This configuration differs from that seen in other fossil and modern humans, which have a prominent postglenoid process and a squamotympanic fissure that takes a more posterior course that does not lie in the apex of the fossa. Some recent studies have suggested that the Ngandong and Sambungmacan hominids are not unique in their expression of these characteristics, and that they can also be found in other fossil crania from Africa and Indonesia. The present study reexamines these morphologies in an effort to better understand their distribution in the hominid fossil record. The results confirm that the lack of a prominent postglenoid process in combination with a squamotympanic fissure that lies wholly in the apex of the mandibular fossa along its entire length is indeed autapomorphic for the Ngandong and Sambungmacan fossils. This finding, in conjunction with work on other nonmetric features in these hominids, suggests that at least two hominid morphs, possibly representing separate species, were present on Java during the Pleistocene. In addition, if this apparent autapomorphy is confirmed, then it is also unlikely that the Ngandong hominids contributed to the gene pool of modern humans.
- Homo erectus
- Temporomandibular joint