Stone foot of Duong Long Towers found

The foot of what is thought to be the tallest ancient towers in Southeast Asia have been excavated by archaeologists in Vietnam.

27 August 2006 (Viet Nam Net Bridge) – The foot of what is thought to be the tallest ancient towers in Southeast Asia have been excavated by archaeologists in Vietnam.

Viet Nam Net Bridge, 27 August 2006

Stone foot of Duong Long Towers found

After excavating an area of 1,500 square meters around Duong Long Cluster of Towers in Binh Dinh Province, archaeologists found a system of stone foots of the towers.

This system, including dozens of stones in square sharp which are 64 centimeters thick, makes the towers solid and sizeable. Especially, beautiful lotus flowers are carved at the foot of the central tower.

Exhibition displays Central Highlands ancient artifacts

27 August 2006 (Viet Nam Net Bridge)

Exhibition displays Central Highlands ancient artifacts

The Vietnam Museum of History in Ho Chi Minh City, in coordination with the Kon Tum General Museum, opened an exhibition titled “Lung Leng – The Mystery of the Prehistoric Central Highlands” on August 26…

A collection of working tools from the paleolithic and neolithic eras, pottery and jewelry, trunk tombs, and many valuable photos and scientific documents on the Lung Leng site are also being displayed at the showroom, which will be open until November.

Creating a cupboard for our skeletons

26 August 2006 (Bangkok Post) – An exploration of the physical anthropology scene in Thailand: many questions unanswered,and still much room to develop research although local archaeologists/anthropologists receive little support themselves.

Creating a cupboard for our skeletons

From today’s perspective, the people who roamed what is now Thailand thousands of years ago may not have been particularly handsome – but interpretation of their appearance, and the ramifications for archaeology, could be very striking indeed.

Comparing the skeletons could unravel some of the myths, and settle some of the debates, about the origins of the T(h)ai people. Are we really descendants of the Chinese, migrants from the Altai mountains in southern Siberia, as we have repeatedly been taught in school? Or have we always lived in this region, as a few scholars have subsequently argued?

These and other questions were raised recently at a gathering on “Tracing the Human Race: The Study of Physical Anthropology in Thailand”. No definitive conclusions were reached at the conference but some of the suggestions presented there could turn widely held beliefs upside down.


Related Books:
Prehistoric Thailand: From Early Settlement to Sukhothai by C. Higham and R. Thosarat
Prehistory of the Indo-Malaysian Archipelago by P. Bellwood

Shipwreck exhibition in Vietnam

An ongoing exhibition featuring shipwreck finds off the waters of Vietnam in the Can Tho Museum.

24 August 2006 (Viet Nam News) – An ongoing exhibition featuring shipwreck finds off the waters of Vietnam in the Can Tho Museum.

Viet Nam News, 24 August 2006

Exhibition of shipwreck relics begins in Can Tho Museum

An exhibition featuring 400 ancient relics salvaged from five shipwrecks off the Viet Nam coast opened at the Can Tho Museum on Tuesday.

Most of them are porcelain and pottery made in China, Thailand, and Viet Nam between the 15th and 18th centuries and are part of more than 500,000 items found aboard ancient vessels which had sunk off the Cham Island (Quang Nam Province), Dam Island (Kien Giang Province), Cau Island (Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province), Binh Thuan and Ca Mau provinces.

The Official Hobbit Article

23 August 2006 (Proceedings from the National Academy of Science of the United States of America) – The article is finally out (and better yet, it’s on open access!) The article itself is extremely technical, so if you’re not that inclined, check out the related links for a list of summaries (including a new entry from Scientific American).

Pygmoid Australomelanesian Homo sapiens skeletal remains from Liang Bua, Flores: Population affinities and pathological abnormalities

T. Jacob, E. Indriati, R. P. Soejono, K. Hsü, D. W. Frayer, R. B. Eckhardt, A. J. Kuperavage, A. Thorne, and M. Henneberg

Liang Bua 1 (LB1) exhibits marked craniofacial and postcranial asymmetries and other indicators of abnormal growth and development. Anomalies aside, 140 cranial features place LB1 within modern human ranges of variation, resembling Australomelanesian populations. Mandibular and dental features of LB1 and LB6/1 either show no substantial deviation from modern Homo sapiens or share features (receding chins and rotated premolars) with Rampasasa pygmies now living near Liang Bua Cave. We propose that LB1 is drawn from an earlier pygmy H. sapiens population but individually shows signs of a developmental abnormality, including microcephaly. Additional mandibular and postcranial remains from the site share small body size but not microcephaly.


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Hobbit debate: 3 more articles

The hobbit debate seems to be picking up speed among the mainstream media with decent science pages.

21, 22 August 2006 (New York Times, National Geographic News, San Francisco Chronicle) – The hobbit debate seems to be picking up speed among the mainstream media with decent science pages. (Unfortunately, this rules out most of the papers in Southeast Asia). Not going to post excerpts here.

Report Reignites Feud Over ‘Little People of Flores’ – New York Times

“Hobbits” Were Pygmy Ancestors, Not New Species, Study Says – National Geographic News

Claims of ‘hobbit’ species face fresh scientific skepticism – San Francisco Chronicle


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Is this the end of Homo Floresiensis?

John Hawks, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison writes a long (a far more qualified than me to give an educated opinion about) commentary on the homo floresiensis debate.

21 August 2006 (John Hawks Weblog) – John Hawks, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison writes a long (a far more qualified than me to give an educated opinion about) commentary on the homo floresiensis debate.

Is this the end of Homo florensiensis?

First of all, it is now abundantly clear that some kind of microcephaly can explain the small size and small brain size of the LB1 specimen. Moreover, the specimen exhibits other very obvious signs of developmental pathology. It is a bad specimen on which to base the diagnosis of a new species; its most important features are quite plausibly caused by its manifest pathology.

The argument so far against pathology has been that it cannot explain other unique morphologies, like the lack of a chin, and Tomes’ root, and so forth. But this paper shows that none of these other features are necessarily unusual for modern humans, in the local and regional context. So that argument is dead, unless someone can show that there is some unique character to the combination of traits in the specimen. Since most of the features that would differentiate it from Homo erectus — purportedly due to endemic dwarfism — are also shared with modern humans, that seems like a problem for the species idea.

So I completely accept the argument that LB1 is pathological. A corollary is that the skeleton cannot be a convincing type specimen for a new species.

But this isn’t only about LB1: there are the other small specimens. This paper makes clear that none of the features of the LB6/1 mandible are outside the range of local peoples. This is not a case of two specimens that must share some rare pathology; the paper argues that they are two specimens that share a regionally-common suite of characteristics. They aren’t, in other words, unusual.


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

Angkor shortlisted for New 7 Wonders

A worldwide search to name the new 7 wonders of the world reaches its final stage, reviewsing the final 21 candidates, of which Angkor in Cambodia is one.

21 August 2006 (Press Release) – A worldwide search to name the new 7 wonders of the world reaches its final stage, reviewsing the final 21 candidates, of which Angkor in Cambodia is one.

New7Wonders Campaign to Visit All 21 Candidates

Over the next seven months, the New7Wonders World Tour, featuring a huge hot-air balloon and a high-tech airship, will visit the 21 finalist monuments, allowing them to showcase their cultural significance. During the ceremony, an official certificate will be presented to each candidate.

In October, the World Tour visits Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle on the 4th, the Eiffel Tower on the 10th, England’s Stonehenge on the 17th and the Alhambra in Granada, Spain on the 24th, moving to the Great Wall of China in Beijing on Nov. 7, Kyoto’s Kiyomizu Temple on the 14th, the Sydney Opera House on the 21st and Cambodia’s Angkor Wat on the 28th, followed by the Taj Mahal on Dec. 5.


Related Books:
Angkor Cities and Temples by C. Jaques
The Treasures of Angkor: Cultural Travel Guide (Rizzoli Art Guide) by M. Albanese
Angkor and the Khmer Civilization (Ancient Peoples and Places) by M. D. Coe
Angkor: Cambodia’s Wondrous Khmer Temples, Fifth Edition by D. Rooney and P. Danford
Angkor: Celestial Temples of the Khmer by J. Ortner et al
Angkor Wat: Time, Space, and Kingship by E. Mannikka

Hobbit Debate Turns Nasty

A follow up from the previous press release describing the Hobbit debate.

22 August 2006 (ABC News in Science) – A follow up from the previous press release describing the Hobbit debate. Am still waiting for the article to appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (delay probably due to time difference).

Hobbit Debate Turns Nasty

A new paper has inflamed the debate over the hobbit’s origins, with one researcher criticising the scientific journal that published the research.

A paper in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) is the second this year to conclude that the hobbit is just a sick human.

Indonesian researcher Professor Teuku Jacob, from Gadjah Mada University, and an international team argue that the hobbit is a microcephalic pygmy rather than a new species of hominid.


Related Books:
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg

No hobbits in this shire

It turns out that the Indonesian Hobbit, the homo floresiensis, is not a new species of human being but an abnormal variation of ours. Oh well. It was fun to entertain the thought while it lasted.

21 Aug 2006 (Press Release, from EurekaAlert) – Fresh off the press! It turns out that the Indonesian Hobbit, the homo floresiensis, is not a new species of human being but an abnormal variation of ours. Oh well. It was fun to entertain the thought while it lasted. The embargo for this press release was lifted only a few hours ago. Click on the picture link in the actual article to see some cool pictures of the facial symmetry of the hobbit skull.

No hobbits in this shire

The skeletal remains found in a cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia, reported in 2004, do not represent a new species as then claimed, but some of the ancestors of modern human pygmies who live on the island today, according to an international scientific team….

One error made in the earlier proposal of a new species was that “comparisons of LB1 were made mostly with Homo sapiens from other geographic areas of the world, principally Europe,” the researchers note. “Yet it would have been logical even for a supposedly novel human species from the Australomelanesian region to have been compared with other human populations, present as well as past, from that region,” they added.

“To establish a new species, paleoanthropologists are required to document a unique complex of normal traits not found in any other species,” says Eckhardt. “But this was not done. The normal traits of LB1 were not unique, and its unusually small braincase was not normal.”

To study LB1’s traits, 94 cranial features and 46 features of its mandible were compared to values for modern humans. All fell within the normal range of variation for Australomelanesians. Two anatomical details, particular grooves in the cranial base singled out as “not seen in modern humans,” in the 2004 new species announcement are, according to Alan Thorne, archaeology and natural history, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, commonly found in Australian and Tasmanian crania….

To visualize the facial asymmetry, David W. Frayer, professor, department of anthropology, University of Kansas, composed split photographs of LB1’s face, combining two left or two right sides as composite faces. The dissimilarities from the original face and between the two left or right composites were striking. To quantify these differences the researchers compared left and right side measurements on the original face.


Related Books:
Little People And a Lost World: An Anthropological Mystery by L. Goldenberg
A New Human: The Startling Discovery and Strange Story of the “Hobbits” of Flores, Indonesia by M. Morwood and P. van Oosterzee