Taiwan’s oldest human is younger than thought

Taiwanese prehistory may need a major rewrite, after fossils once thought to be 20,000 years old have been re-dated to be only 3,000 years old.

Taiwan’s 1st human may have arrived only 3,000 years ago
The China Post, 25 December 2015

Lab tests of fossils rewrite Taiwan prehistory [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 25 December 2015

In classrooms across the country, children are taught that the first humans in Taiwan arrived at least 20,000 years ago. Lab results from the U.S. and Australia indicate that it could be as few as 3,000.

A Japanese study on the fossils’ manganese content had indicated that the bones were between 20,000 and 30,000 years old, but the reliability of the dating method has more recently been called into question.

To confirm the age of the fossils, the National Taiwan Museum sent a sample to Beta Analytic in Florida, the world’s largest radiocarbon dating laboratory.

Tests returned in September indicated that the bones were 3,000 years old, according to the museum.

Full stories here and here [Link no longer active].

Buddhist culture museum opens in Vietnam

A new museum featuring the Buddhist culture of Vietnam has opened in Da Nang.

The Buddhist Culture Museum in Da Nang. Source: Viet Nam News 20151225
The Buddhist Culture Museum in Da Nang. Source: Viet Nam News 20151225

Buddhist museum opens to public
Viet Nam News, 25 December 2015

The first Buddhist Culture Museum in the country was opened yesterday at the city’s Quan The Am (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) Pagoda with an exhibition of over 500 Buddhist antiques.

The museum, which covers over 500sq.m, also has ancient documents, statues and sculptures relating to Buddhism from the 19-20th centuries on show.

“It’s been a great effort by archaeologists, experts and monks at the pagoda to build the first ever Buddhism museum in Viet Nam with an extensive collection of statues and other exhibits,” said historian and deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Scientific History Association, Duong Trung Quoc.

Full story here.

TED Talk: Finding hidden rock art in Southeast Asia

Last month, I was in Singapore to give a talk at TEDx Singapore which had the theme of “The Unsdicovered Country”. The original name for this talk was “The Art that you don’t see”, and it’s focused on a series of unfoldings, first about the rock art you didn’t know existed in Southeast Asia, and then to the art you couldn’t see without digital enhancement, culminating to my discovery of the Angkor Wat paintings that was announced last year.

Who let the dogs out, of Southeast Asia?

A new paper published in Cell Research analyses the genomes of dogs from around the world and finds that the dogs tested from Southeast Asian have higher genetic diversity, suggesting that dogs were domesticated in this region around 33,000 years ago.

IMG_6182

DNA Study Suggests Dogs Originated in South East Asia
Archaeology, 17 December 2015

Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world
Cell Research, doi: 10.1038/cr.2015.147

The origin and evolution of the domestic dog remains a controversial question for the scientific community, with basic aspects such as the place and date of origin, and the number of times dogs were domesticated, open to dispute. Using whole genome sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world), we find that dogs from southern East Asia have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations, and are the most basal group relating to gray wolves, indicating an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33 000 years ago. Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.

Full paper here. (Open Access)

Red Deer Cave bones in Southwest China raises new questions about human origins

A recent study published in PLOS One analyses the bones from the Red Deer Cave of Yunnan province and suggests that they may belong to a branch of a archaic form of human, or represent multiple colonisation events in the Pleistocene before the arrival of anatomically modern humans.

Red Deer Cave. Source: Popular Archaeology 20151217
Red Deer Cave. Source: Archaeology 20151217

Human Remains from the Pleistocene-Holocene Transition of Southwest China Suggest a Complex Evolutionary History for East Asians
PLOS One, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031918

The Mystery of Red Deer Cave
Popular Archaeology, 17 December 2015

‘Red Deer Cave people’ bone points to mysterious species of pre-modern human
Science Daily, 17 December 2015

14,000-Year-Old Bone Found in Red Deer Cave Points to Archaic Human Species
Sci News, 18 December 2015

Background
Later Pleistocene human evolution in East Asia remains poorly understood owing to a scarcity of well described, reliably classified and accurately dated fossils. Southwest China has been identified from genetic research as a hotspot of human diversity, containing ancient mtDNA and Y-DNA lineages, and has yielded a number of human remains thought to derive from Pleistocene deposits. We have prepared, reconstructed, described and dated a new partial skull from a consolidated sediment block collected in 1979 from the site of Longlin Cave (Guangxi Province). We also undertook new excavations at Maludong (Yunnan Province) to clarify the stratigraphy and dating of a large sample of mostly undescribed human remains from the site.

Methodology/Principal Findings
We undertook a detailed comparison of cranial, including a virtual endocast for the Maludong calotte, mandibular and dental remains from these two localities. Both samples probably derive from the same population, exhibiting an unusual mixture of modern human traits, characters probably plesiomorphic for later Homo, and some unusual features. We dated charcoal with AMS radiocarbon dating and speleothem with the Uranium-series technique and the results show both samples to be from the Pleistocene-Holocene transition: ∼14.3-11.5 ka.

Conclusions/Significance
Our analysis suggests two plausible explanations for the morphology sampled at Longlin Cave and Maludong. First, it may represent a late-surviving archaic population, perhaps paralleling the situation seen in North Africa as indicated by remains from Dar-es-Soltane and Temara, and maybe also in southern China at Zhirendong. Alternatively, East Asia may have been colonised during multiple waves during the Pleistocene, with the Longlin-Maludong morphology possibly reflecting deep population substructure in Africa prior to modern humans dispersing into Eurasia.

Download the paper here.

Price changes for Bagan, My Son next year

Two somewhat related stories on the changes to admission fees to Bagan in Myanmar and the My Son Sanctuary in Vietnam.

The My Son Sanctuary. Source: Viet Nam News 201512118
The My Son Sanctuary. Source: Viet Nam News 201512118

Bagan entry to be charged in kyat
Eleven Myanmar, 17 December 2015

My Son Sanctuary entrance fee to increase next year
Viet Nam News, 18 December 2015

The entry fee into Bagan heritage site will be collected in kyat from January 1, according to the Ministry of Culture.

The fee will be Ks25,000, equivalent to the current US$20.

The management board of the My Son Sanctuary in the central province of Quang Nam earlier this week announced to increase entrance fees by 40-50 per cent next year. The announcement has been sent to tour operators.

Full stories here and here.

New discoveries from the Thang Long Citadel

Vietnamese archaeologists announce the new discoveries from this years excavations beneath the Thang Long Citadel in Hanoi.

Artefacts from Thang Long Citadel. Source: 20151216
Artefacts from Thang Long Citadel. Source: 20151216

Artifacts found in Thang Long Royal Citadel
Viet Nam News, 16 December 2015

The excavation of Thang Long Royal Citadel in Ha Noi this year has so far revealed various large-scale architectural vestiges, according to reports released by archeologists at a recent conference in the city.

The archeologists continued to identify traces of overlapping layers of royal palaces from different dynasties dating back to the 8th century. Most notably, the cultural layer of the Ly dynasty (1009-1225) is about 1.15m thick, while that of the Dai La period (9th-10th centuries) is about 0.5m thick.

The structure and scale of architectural relics from the Ly Dynasty have also been identified by experts from the Viet Nam Institute of Archeology. They confirmed that the large water drainage system constructed during the Ly dynasty and unearthed in 2012 was more complicated than initially thought.

Full story here.

Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum to undergo assessment for renovations

The Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum, a small museum in the outskirts of Siem Reap, will have renovations planned for it in the near future.

Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum. Source: Khmer Times 20151215
Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum. Source: Khmer Times 20151215

Angkor Museum to Get Facelift or be Forgotten
Khmer Times, 15 December 2015

At the end of a long, narrow side road – down the block from the new North Korean-built Angkor Panorama Museum – the Preah Norodom Sihanouk Angkor Museum sits hidden behind sparse patches of scrubs ten years after it opened its doors for the first time.

The little known and largely forgotten museum was first built to house more than 100 Buddhist statues discovered at Banteay Kdei temple by a team of Japanese researchers from Sophia University in 2000 and 2001.

The museum – established jointly by Sophia University and Apsara Authority – has expanded slowly over the past ten years to house two additional exhibitions of objects found during archaeological excavations in the Angkor Park.

At the December 4th opening ceremony of the Angkor Panorama Museum, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told the crowd of nearly 1,000, “We need more tourist products such as this to attract visitors to Cambodia…We want to see tourists stay longer in Cambodia.”

Full story here.

New paper on the Baphuon

Mitch Hendrickson shares a new paper that was published last month in PLoS One on the construction dates of the Baphuon. It’s Open Access.

Le Baphuon (Angkor)

First Direct Dating for the Construction and Modification of the Baphuon Temple Mountain in Angkor, Cambodia
PLoS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0141052

Architecture represents key evidence of dynastic practice and change in the archaeological world. Chronologies for many important buildings and sequences, including the iconic temples of medieval Angkor in Cambodia, are based solely on indirect associations from inscriptions and architectural styles. The Baphuon temple, one of the last major buildings in Angkor without textual or scientifically-derived chronological evidence, is crucial both for the context and date of its construction and the period when its western façade was modified into a unique, gigantic Reclining Buddha. Its construction was part of a major dynastic change and florescence of the Hindu-Mahayana Buddhist state and the modification is the key evidence of Theravada Buddhist power after Angkor’s decline in the 15th century. Using a newly-developed approach based on AMS radiocarbon dating to directly date four iron crampons integrated into the structure we present the first direct evidence for the history of the Baphuon. Comprehensive study of ferrous elements shows that both construction and modification were critically earlier than expected. The Baphuon can now be considered as the major temple associated with the imperial reformations and territorial consolidation of Suryavarman I (1010–1050 AD) for whom no previous building to legitimize his reign could be identified. The Theravada Buddhist modification is a hundred years prior to the conventional 16th century estimation and is not associated with renewed use of Angkor. Instead it relates to the enigmatic Ayutthayan occupation of Angkor in the 1430s and 40s during a major period of climatic instability. Accurately dating iron with relatively low carbon content is a decisive step to test long-standing assumptions about architectural histories and political processes for states that incorporated iron into buildings (e.g., Ancient Greece, medieval India). Furthermore, this new approach has the potential to revise chronologies related to iron consumption practices since the origins of ferrous metallurgy three millennia ago.

Download the paper here.

Buddhist antiques on display in Da Nang

Hundreds of artefacts that have been stored in a temple in Da Nang will go on display in Vietnam’s first Buddhist culture museum.

The abbot of Quan The Am Temple showing off one of the Buddha statues on display. Source: Viet Nam News 20151214
The abbot of Quan The Am Temple showing off one of the Buddha statues on display. Source: Viet Nam News 20151214

Buddhist antiques displayed in Da Nang
Viet Nam News, 14 December 2015

Antique statues on display in Vietnam’s first Buddhist culture museum
Thanh Nien News, 15 December 2015

Hundreds of Buddhist antiques which have been stored in a temple in Da Nang City for many years will be exhibited to the public on December 24 for the first time.

The municipal People’s Committee decided to establish the Buddhist Cultural Museum as a place to display the antiques in the Quan The Am Temple, Ngu Hanh Son District, by the end of 2014. This is the first Buddhist Culture Museum in Viet Nam.

Huynh Dinh Quoc Thien, deputy director of the Da Nang Museum, said they accidentally discovered a “treasure-house” of about 500 objects, with more than 200 antiques which were assessed at the Quan The Am Temple.

“We sent experts to study this large number of antiques with assistance from the temple’s monks,” said Thien.

Full stories here. and here.