Cranial analysis of hobbit suggests no relation to modern humans

A new paper published in the Journal of Human Evolution compares the cranial structures of modern humans and homo florsiensis and concludes that the two species are not related.

What do cranial bones of LB1 tell us about Homo floresiensis?
Journal of Human Evolution, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.12.008

‘Hobbits’, Homo Floresiensis Were Another Species Not Deformed Humans,New Study
National Daily Press, 18 Feb 2016

Homo Floresiensis or ‘Hobbits’ Found on Flores Island were Not Modern Humans, Study Reveals
BiztekMojo, 16 Feb 2016

Cranial vault thickness (CVT) of Liang Bua 1, the specimen that is proposed to be the holotype of Homo floresiensis, has not yet been described in detail and compared with samples of fossil hominins, anatomically modern humans or microcephalic skulls. In addition, a complete description from a forensic and pathological point of view has not yet been carried out. It is important to evaluate scientifically if features related to CVT bring new information concerning the possible pathological status of LB1, and if it helps to recognize affinities with any hominin species and particularly if the specimen could belong to the species Homo sapiens.

Medical examination of the skull based on a micro-CT examination clearly brings to light the presence of a sincipital T (a non-metrical variant of normal anatomy), a scar from an old frontal trauma without any evident functional consequence, and a severe bilateral hyperostosis frontalis interna that may have modified the anterior morphology of the endocranium of LB1. We also show that LB1 displays characteristics, related to the distribution of bone thickness and arrangements of cranial structures, that are plesiomorphic traits for hominins, at least for Homo erectus s.l. relative to Homo neanderthalensis and H. sapiens. All the microcephalic skulls analyzed here share the derived condition of anatomically modern H. sapiens. Cranial vault thickness does not help to clarify the definition of the species H. floresiensis but it also does not support an attribution of LB1 to H. sapiens. We conclude that there is no support for the attribution of LB1 to H. sapiens as there is no evidence of systemic pathology and because it does not have any of the apomorphic traits of our species.

Article here.

Taiwan excavation shows Neolithic settlement

Since 1996, Academia Sinica has been excavating at the Tainan Science Park to unearth traces of settlement that go back 5,000 years.

Tainan Science Park excavation. Source: Focus Taiwan 20160212
Tainan Science Park excavation. Source: Focus Taiwan 20160212

Evidence of how ancient humans crossed Taiwan Strait still scarce
Focus Taiwan, 12 Feb 2016

A vast cache of prehistoric artifacts and human remains have been unearthed at an archaeological site in the Tainan Science Park, but none offer concrete evidence explaining an age-old mystery: how ancient settlers from China actually reached Taiwan.

Several million cultural artifacts and faunal and botanic remains have been excavated from over 2,000 burial sites in the science park since the archaeological project kicked off in December 1996, according to Academia Sinica, which is overseeing the work.

The artifacts unearthed have been highly similar to those excavated from archaeological sites along the coasts of southeastern China, said Academia Sinica academician Tsang Cheng-hwa (臧振華) when speaking of the award-winning project with local media last month.

Full story here.

The treasures of Vietnam’s Forbidden City

A feature on the royal treasures (quite literally) of the Nguyen Dynasty in their seat of power – Hue.

Old aerial photo of The Forbidden City of Hue. Source: Vietnam Net 20160208
Old aerial photo of The Forbidden City of Hue. Source: Vietnam Net 20160208

Discover the “treasures” of antiquities in Hue Citadel
Vietnam Net, 08 Feb 2016

The last feudal dynasty of Vietnam in Hue City went through many historical events. Tens of thousands of rare artifacts of the Nguyen Dynasty have been lost.

According to Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Centre for Conservation of Hue Monuments, from the eighteenth century, the nobility of Hue was interested in collecting antiques and purchasing valuable items.
Researcher Phan Thuan An said that in the golden age of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), palaces and temples in the royal citadel as well as the tombs were decorated with and stored a lot of precious objects, which were the most valuable things in the country.

Working for years in the colony, Robert R. de la Susse is a French official who had deep understanding of and loved Vietnamese culture. In an opportunity to visit the Hue royal citadel in the early 1910s, after seeing artifacts in Can Chanh and Phung Tien palaces, he called these places “museums”.

Full story here.

Nanhai No. 1 reveals details of the maritime silk route

A feature on the ongoing excavation of the Nanhai No. 1, a shipwreck discovered off the coast of Guangdong province in China.

Feature: Ancient shipwreck unlocks secrets of Maritime Silk Road
Xinhua, 02 Feb 2016

The Maritime Silk Road, like the ancient Silk Road, was not only a route of trade, but of communication among civilizations.

“Coastal Guangdong holds the DNA of China’s external exchanges and trade,” says Long Jiayou, director with the Guangdong Provincial Cultural Heritage Bureau.

Guangdong had the longest history and most external associations of the Chinese regions on the route.

“Guangdong is also on the route of China’s Belt and Road initiative with its long history and massive overseas trade volume,” says Long.

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to boost connectivity and common development along the ancient land and maritime Silk Roads.

The excavation of the Nanhai No. 1 adds historic significance.

“It has brought China new concepts, innovative methods and technologies in underwater archeology. Moreover, it is a crucial model for the protection of relics along the Maritime Silk Road,” says Long.

Full story here.

Locals supportive of Borobudur management change

A government plan to overhaul the management of Borobudur to revitalise the area is met with local support.

Java ~ Borobudur

Borobudur set for management overhaul
Jakarta Post, 1 Feb 2016

Borobudur Working Group head Priyono concurred, attributing the surge in the number of vendors in the area to the lack of assessment regarding the social and environmental impacts of the Borobudur tourist industry on the more than 75,000 people who live in 20 villages in the environs of the temple.

“We are hoping that the government’s new body will be able to better manage the temple in terms of both preservation and local empowerment,” Priyono said.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is also home to hundreds of ancient Hindu and Buddhist temples, most of them built between the fifth and 14th centuries, at the time of the arrival of the two religions in the country.

Borobudur, located some 40 kilometers northwest of Yogyakarta, is one of the world’s most famous temples, renowned for its gigantic size and sophisticated architecture. Built in the ninth century, the Mahayana Buddhist temple is 1.5 hectares in size and has a volume of 60,000 cubic meters.

Full story here.

The last Koh Ker piece will return soon

The last Koh Ker piece that is publicly accounted for, housed in the Denver Art Museum, is the process of being repatriated – undoubtedly due to the spate of high profile returns by museums abroad.

Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160130
Source: Phnom Penh Post 20160130

Last Koh Ker piece coming home
Phnom Penh Post, 30 January 2016

In Visit, US Secretary of State Gave a Nod to Cambodian Antiquities
VOA Khmer, 29 January 2016

Cambodia is set to reclaim the last of the statues looted from the Koh Ker complex known to be kept in public collections, with a US museum agreeing to relinquish the piece from its permanent collection.

The statue of the warrior god Rama has been held by the Denver Art Museum for nearly 30 years. However, museum representatives said this week that the artefact will soon make its return to Cambodia, though an official agreement has not yet been reached.

The Rama torso – missing its head and its feet – remained on display in the museum’s Asian art gallery until last month.

“The Denver Art Museum is currently in the process of returning the 10th century Khmer sandstone sculpture to the Kingdom of Cambodia,” Christoph Heinrich, the museum’s director, wrote in an email to Post Weekend.

Full story here and here.

Archaeogenetics paints a more complex picture of the Austronesian expansion

A detailed study of DNA of Pacific Islanders finds that their mitochondrial DNA were present in Island Southeast Asia from an earlier period than the so-called Austronesian expansion, and suggests a more complex picture of how humans migrated into the Pacific.

Resolving the ancestry of Austronesian-speaking populations
Soares et al.
Human Genetics, DOI 10.1007/s00439-015-1620-z

New research into the origins of the Austronesian languages
Eureka Alert, 28 January 2016

There are two very different interpretations of the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA), with genetic evidence invoked in support of both. The “out-of-Taiwan” model proposes a major Late Holocene expansion of Neolithic Austronesian speakers from Taiwan. An alternative, proposing that Late Glacial/postglacial sea-level rises triggered largely autochthonous dispersals, accounts for some otherwise enigmatic genetic patterns, but fails to explain the Austronesian language dispersal. Combining mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), Y-chromosome and genome-wide data, we performed the most comprehensive analysis of the region to date, obtaining highly consistent results across all three systems and allowing us to reconcile the models. We infer a primarily common ancestry for Taiwan/ISEA populations established before the Neolithic, but also detected clear signals of two minor Late Holocene migrations, probably representing Neolithic input from both Mainland Southeast Asia and South China, via Taiwan. This latter may therefore have mediated the Austronesian language dispersal, implying small-scale migration and language shift rather than large-scale expansion.

Paper is open access, downloadable here.

Emergency restoration works to Bagan near completion

Repairs to pagodas damaged by storms last year in Bagan will soon be completed, due to a restoration project funded by UNESCO.

UNESCO backs Bagan restoration
TTR Weekly, 28 January 2016

Ministry of Culture’s Archaeological Department says restoration of Bagan’s pagodas damaged in storms, last year, will be completed soon.

Global New Light of Myanmar reported the city gained emergency funding from UNESCO to the tune of USD30,000 for the restoration of temples that were damaged by November storms last year.

The Bagan Conservation Group and the Archaeological Department are joining forces to carry out restoration. Efforts will focus on ancient wall paintings inside the pagodas and on masonry according to the department deputy managing director, U Thein Lwin.

Full story here.

Fellowship positions: Modes of Authority and Aesthetic Conducts from South to Southeast Asia

Two postdoctoral fellowship positions are available as part of the PSL (Paris Sciences et Lettres University) research project entitled AutoritAs. They will be administered by the CNRS.

The Autoritas project Modes of Authority and Aesthetic conducts from South to Southeast Asia Art, in its material and immaterial manifestations, often serves the legitimation of authority, whether that authority is political, religious or of some other kind. From South Asia to Insulindia, aesthetic forms of expression, be they graphic, visual, musical, choreographic, theatrical, narrative (or most often combinations of these elements), contribute to the establishment of various types of legitimacy. Over time, they have undergone multiple processes of circulation, valorization, devalorization, prohibition, reinvention, re­‐appropriation, emulation. Sometimes censored, they have also elicited forms of resistance and opposition. The project calls on several different social science fields to think through the link between aesthetic phenomena and authority from South Asia to peninsular and insular Southeast Asia.

Key words: arts, performing arts, aesthetics, politics, authority, power, ritual, orality, techniques, South Asia, Southeast Asia

http://case.ehess.fr/index.php?1167 [Link no longer active]

Conditions
Pay: approx. 2,000 €/month
Length: 10 months (Sept. 2016-­June 2017)
Location: Paris
Application deadline 30th April 2016

Field
Anthropology, Ethnomusicology, History, Archaeology

Duties
From a scholarly point of view, the candidates will use fieldwork materials to elaborate a research contribution aimed at understanding the complexity of the link between aesthetics and modes of authority in a South Asian or Southeast Asian country. This research can be in the following fields: history, anthropology, archaeology, epigraphy.

The two young scholars will need to contribute to the overall project by helping with the organization of the 2017 international conference and of workshops. They will assist the project heads by taking care of research administration duties and by tracking project deliverables.

Desired background
The candidates must hold a PhD in the social sciences, preferably in anthropology, ethnomusicology or history. This
diploma must have been obtained less than 5 years ago. They must have a solid grasp of one vernacular language from a South or Southeast Asian country. Perfect fluency in French and English is desirable. They must have a fair amount of experience in research administration and a great sense of teamwork.

Postdoctoral contract details
The candidates will be assigned to and hosted by the Centre Asie du Sud-­Est (CASE, Paris, CNRS/EHESS) and the Centre d’Etudes de l’Inde et de l’Asie du Sud (CEIAS, Paris, CNRS/EHESS) respectively. In addition to their research duties, they will be expected to help with the preparation of the 2017 conference. Their scholarly
integration will be facilitated by the project heads. They will conduct research, which will be funded in part from the overall project budget. Their salary will be approximately 2,000 euros net per month for 10 months.

Application
The application file must be in PDF format and include:
• A curriculum vitae with a list of publications
• A copy of the PhD diploma or equivalent certificate
• The “rapport de thèse” (report on the PhD defense), or, only in the case of doctorates obtained from universities
that do not release such rapports de thèse, three letters of reference sent directly by the referees to the project heads.
• A project describing postdoctoral research and activities fitting in precisely with the AutoritAs project program
(5 pages maximum) – in French or English. The application file must be sent electronically to danarapp@cnrs.fr
and tizpulcino@hotmail.com, no later than 30th April 2016.

Appeal: Preserving Evidence of the Khmer Rouge Genocide

A appeal to help with the archaeology of the recent past: a team of forensic anthropologists needs funds to analyse the skeletal remains held at the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, more commonly known as the Killing Fields, and to upgrade the storage facilities. This fundraising appeal covers an important gap that is left out from other grants: the salaries of the Cambodian researchers who will be working on the recovery, stabilisation and documentation of the bones. Please lend your support to this very worthy cause!

The Krang Ta Chan project team
The Krang Ta Chan project team

Preserving Evidence of the Khmer Rouge Genocide

Krang Ta Chan (ក្រាំង​តា​ចាន់) is one of nearly 20,000 mass gravesites throughout Cambodia resulting from the Khmer Rouge violence in the late 1970s.​​ Krang Ta Chan was a Khmer Rouge detention center and execution site, and when the graves were excavated, over 10,000 victims were discovered. The site has been turned into a memorial where the bones of the victims have been collected. However, the rain, humidity, and extreme heat are causing rapid deterioration of the bones.

Additionally, the evidentiary importance of these remains have not been realized. The bones have not been scientifically analyzed, which would provide important information about the traumatic injuries sustained by victims and contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the Khmer Rouge era. The Krang Ta Chan Project Team, led by Mr. Vuthy Voeun, a Director within the Cambodian Ministry’s of Culture and Fine Arts, plans to analyze these remains and preserve them for future generations as evidence of the violence that transpired in Cambodia.

Lend your support here.