Homo erectus - or upright man - perished in a mass death between 117,000 and 108,000 years ago following a volcanic eruption, according to a new study.

Our ancient ancestors evolved around two million years ago and were the first known human species to walk fully upright.

Scientists initially believed that they died somewhere between 550,000 and 27,000 years ago, but new evidence claims to have pinpointed a much tighter time frame of when Homo erectus perished.

Dutch anthropologists in 1930 found a mass grave of Homo Erectus fossils buried on the banks of the Solo River on the Indonesian island of Java.

Researchers working in an area called Ngandong unearthed 25,000 fossil specimens, including 12 skullcaps and two leg bones.

By studying sediment surrounding the river rather than the fossils themselves, a team of anthropologists from the University of Iowa believes that it has identified a much tighter age range for when the species died out
By studying sediment surrounding the river rather than the fossils themselves, a team of anthropologists from the University of Iowa believes that it has identified a much tighter age range for when the species died out

A new study suggests that Homo Erectus may have lived longer than previously thought.

By studying sediment surrounding the river rather than the fossils themselves, a team of anthropologists from the University of Iowa believes that it has identified a much tighter age range for when the species died out.

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"Ngandong is the youngest known Homo erectus site in the world."

The authors of the study say the skullcaps and leg bones discovered in Ngandong represent the largest Homo erectus find at any single site.

The bones, along with 25,000 other fossils that were later lost during World War II, "accumulated within a logjam in the river," said Kira Westaway, another author of the study.

Homo erectus lived until 108,000 years ago, scientists say
Homo erectus lived until 108,000 years ago, scientists say

Professor Westaway added that the skullcaps were missing parts of the cranium because the skeletons got damaged when they were washed down the river in a flood.

"The fossils would not have been concentrated in this small area without the flooding event," Ciochon added.

Anthropologists think the collection of remains represent a mass death event, possibly the result of a lahar upriver.

A lahar - which comes from a Javanese word - is the slurry that can flow down the slope of a volcano when heavy rainfall occurs during or after a volcanic eruption. These violent events will sweep away anything in their path.