Sangiran prehistoric site is recognized by scientists to be one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world for studying fossil man, ranking alongside Zhoukoudian (China), Willandra Lakes (Australia), Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), and Sterkfontein (South Africa), and more fruitful in finds than any of these, UNESCO reported 1995. Sangiran comprises about 56 km² (7 km x 8 km). It is located in Central Java, about 15 kilometers north of Solo.
It is an important place for Pithecanthropus Erectus, the pre-historic Java man. It is fossilized land of prehistoric living things. The Pleistocene Museum keeps some skills of the Erectus, fossils of plants and animals. Sangiran and other places such as Wajak (near Tulungangung) and Trinil (near Ngawi) are significant places for human evolution/theory. It is an interesting place for scientific tourism in the field of geology, anthropology, and archeology. Many experts came to this site to do some research and study among others; Van Es (1939), Duyfyes (1936), Van Bemmelen (1937), Van Koeningswald (1938), Sartono (1960), Suradi (1962) and Otto Sudarmaji (1976). Van Koeningswald said that more than five different types of hominoid fossils have been found in Sangiran, it was incredible. There is no other place in the world like Sangiran. The Sangiran fossils are very various, they were earth as well as sea fossils. There was a possibility that the island of Java was erected from the bottom of sea million years ago.
- 1883: The Dutch paleoanthropologist Eugène Dubois undertook preliminary fieldwork at Sangiran. However, Dubois did not find many fossils of interest so he shifted his attention to Trinil in East Java where he found significant discoveries.
- 1934: The anthropologist Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald started to examine the area. During excavations in the next years’ fossils of some of the first known human ancestors, Pithecanthropus erectus (“Java Man”, now reclassified as part of the species Homo erectus), were found here. About 60 more human fossils, among them the enigmatic “Meganthropus”, have since been found. Sangiran 2, for example, was discovered by von Koenigswald at the site. In addition, there are considerable numbers of remains of the animals that these primitive humans hunted, and of others that merely shared the habitat.
- 1977: The Indonesian Government designated an area of 56 km2 around Sangiran as a Daerah Cagar Budaya (Protected Cultural Area).
- 1988: A modest local site museum and conservation laboratory were set up at Sangiran.
- 1996: UNESCO registered Sangiran as a World Heritage Site in the World Heritage List as the Sangiran Early Man Site.
- 2011: The current museum and visitors’ center was opened by the Minister for Education and Culture on 15 December.
- 2012: President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited the museum in February accompanied by 11 cabinet ministers.