Homo erectus (meaning "upright man") is a species of archaic humans that lived throughout most of the Pleistocene geological epoch. Its earliest fossil evidence dates to 1.8 million years ago (discovered 1991 in Dmanisi, Georgia).
A debate regarding the classification, ancestry, and progeny of Homo Erectus, especially in relation to Homo Ergaster, is ongoing, with two major positions:
1) Homo Erectus is the same species as Homo Ergaster, and thereby Homo Erectus is a direct ancestor of the later hominins including Homo Heidelbergensis, Homo Antecessor, Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Denisova, and Homo Sapiens; or,
2) Homo Erectus is in fact an Asian species or subspecies distinct from African Homo Ergaster.
Some paleoanthropologists consider Homo Ergaster to be a variety, that is, the "African" variety, of Homo Erectus; the labels "Homo Erectus sensu stricto" (strict sense) for the Asian species and "Homo Erectus sensu lato" (broad sense) have been offered for the greater species comprising both Asian and African populations.
Homo Erectus was never extinct, but developed into derived species, notably Homo Heidelbergensis. As a chronospecies, the time of its disappearance is thus a matter of convention. The species name proposed in 1950 defines Java Man as the type specimen (now H. e. erectus). Since then, there has been a trend in palaeoanthropology of reducing the number of proposed species of Homo, to the point where Homo Erectus includes all early (Lower Paleolithic) forms of Homo sufficiently derived from Homo Habilis and distinct from early omo Heidelbergensis (in Africa also known as Homo Rhodesiensis). In this wider sense, Homo Erectus had mostly been replaced by Homo Heidelbergensis by about 500,000 years ago, with possible late survival in Java as late as 140,000 years ago. The discovery of the morphologically divergent Dmanisi skull 5 in 2013 has reinforced the trend of subsuming fossils formerly given separate species names under Homo Erectus considered as a wide-ranging, polymorphous species. Thus, Homo Ergaster is now well within the accepted morphological range of Homo Erectus, and it has been suggested that even Homo Rudolfensis and Homo Habilis (alternatively suggested as late forms of Australopithecus rather than early Homo) should be considered early varieties of Homo Erectus.
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