This cranio-morphometric study emphasizes a “two-layer model” for eastern Eurasian anatomically modern human (AMH) populations, based on large datasets of 89 population samples including findings directly from ancient archaeological contexts. Results suggest that an initial “first layer” of AMH had related closely to ancestral Andaman, Australian, Papuan, and Jomon groups who likely entered this region via the Southeast Asian landmass, prior to 65–50 kya. A later “second layer” shared strong cranial affinities with Siberians, implying a Northeast Asian source, evidenced by 9 kya in central China and then followed by expansions of descendant groups into Southeast Asia after 4 kya. These two populations shared limited initial exchange, and the second layer grew at a faster rate and in greater numbers, linked with contexts of farming that may have supported increased population densities. Clear dichotomization between the two layers implies a temporally deep divergence of distinct migration routes for AMH through both southern and northern Eurasia.
via Quartenary International, 07 Jan 2019: Taking a statistical approach to analysing faunal remains at archaeological sites across Southeast Asia to distinguish between hunter-gather and early agricultural subsistence economies.
The emergence of agriculture in Mainland Southeast Asia appears to have resulted in a subsistence shift from hunting terrestrial and arboreal game to a combined hunting/animal management subsistence regime focused on the maintenance of pigs and dogs. These conclusions are currently based on nominal differences in vertebrate taxonomic composition observed at different archaeological sites. In this paper, we take a statistical approach to test whether hunter-gather and early agricultural subsistence economies really can be confidently distinguished based on the relative taxonomic composition of the recovered animal bone assemblages. A regional database of terrestrial and arboreal vertebrate faunas was created for 32 archaeological sites across Southeast Asia from the Terminal Pleistocene to the Late Holocene, and principal component analysis was performed. The resultant data indicates that terrestrial vertebrate taxonomic composition is a relatively strong indicator of the general subsistence base for the various archaeological sites studied and can be used to determine whether the inhabitants subsisted purely from hunting, or from a mixture hunting and animal management.
via Vientiane Times, 04 Feb 2019: Laos expects that the Plain of Jars will be listed in the the World Heritage list later this year.
Good news is expected for Laos’ Plain of Jars (Thong Hai Hin) in July when UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee meets to make a decision on the site’s status, a government official said last week.
Director General of the Heritage Department at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Thongbay Phothisan, said that after a lot of hard work to process the necessary paperwork, he hopes the Plain of Jars will soon be listed by UNESCO as Laos’ third World Heritage Site.
For readers in Singapore, a talk by Dr Michael Flecker in ISEAS on Friday.
Date: Friday, 15 February 2019 Time : 10:00 am – 11:30 am Venue : ISEAS Seminar Room 2
About the Lecture
Apart from the European square riggers, the eclectic mix of vessels anchored off Kallang Basin during Raffles’ era would not have differed much from the shipping of five centuries earlier. Chinese junks and Southeast Asian traders would have swung alongside a smattering of Arab and Indian dhows in Temasek roads. During the 14th century the Southeast Asians were transitioning from the thousand-year-old lashed-lug tradition to the fabled jong that would fascinate the Portuguese upon their arrival. Sino-Siamese hybrid ships arrived with Siamese ceramics when various Ming emperors banned Chinese exports. While the numbers were slashed, smuggling ensured that junks from northern and southern China kept on sailing. Drawing on archaeological and historical evidence, we investigate the wide range of ships that plied Singapore waters from the 14th to the 17th century.
About the Speaker
Dr Michael Flecker, Managing Director of Maritime Explorations, has overseen some of the most important shipwreck excavations in Asia over the past 30 years. They include the 9th century Belitung (Tang), 13th century Java Sea, 15th century Bakau, c.1608 Binh Thuan, and c.1690 Vung Tau Wrecks. He earned his PhD from the National University of Singapore, based on the excavation of the 10th century Intan Wreck, and specialises in ancient Asian ship construction and maritime trade. He has twice been a Visiting Fellow at NSC.
Last week while I was back in Singapore I took the opportunity to visit the Raffles in Southeast Asia exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The exhibition coincided with Singapore’s bicentennial celebrations, a “celebration” that has been met with mixed reception because it commemorates the arrival of Raffles to Singapore, and hence the colonial period of Singapore.
The arrival of Raffles has traditionally been the start of beginning of the history of Singapore. This view has softened somewhat, due in no small part to Prof. John Miksic’s work on the archaeology of Singapore. With the discoveries at Fort Canning, school history books now acknowledge the Temasek period. Still, the idea of Raffles as founder of modern Singapore carries an air of preeminence and prestige, and some of the country’s top schools and institutions bear the name of Raffles.
The bicentennary, Raffles, the discourse of (de)colonisation and rejection of the ‘Big Man’ myth of Raffles all come together in this one exhibition. On one level, Singaporeans only learned about the Raffles who came to Singapore in 1819 but never knew the Raffles who was Governor of Java and his role in the rediscovery of Borobudur. Raffles never actually went to the now-Unesco world heritage site, but he commissioned the survey and is now credited for its discovery. This unearned claim to fame would be a recurrent theme in his career.
The exhibition, through the lens of Raffles’ seminal History of Java and the items collected by Raffles and his contemporaries show a bias towards ancient Hindu relics but pay little attention to Muslim culture.
Some of Raffles’ personal flaws also come through, now with 200 years of hindsight and other historical sources to draw upon. This story of the tapir publication is quite telling about Raffles’s conflict with his second, William Farquhar. Farquhar arguably should be credited as the actual founder of the Singapore settlement (having done the actual legwork) but even the named after him was erased in the 1990s, a victim of Singapore’s urban redevelopment. William Farquhar’s legacy was more recently redeemed in Nadia Wright’s book, William Farquhar and Singapore: Stepping out from Raffles’ Shadow
Raffles in Southeast Asia was enjoyable in many layers. For many Singaporeans, it was an eye-opener to the influence of Raffles on the rest of the region and not just the country he ‘founded’. The exhibition can also be seen as a critique to the legacy of colonialism, and how its perspective was selective in many ways.
Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this fun talk at the Siam Society later this month by Dr. Wunrada Surat. The talk is part of the Pint of Science event and is free with registration. [Disclosure I am part of the organising team of Pint of Science Thailand]
Date: 26 Feb 2019 Venue: Siam Society, Asok Time: 7 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm)
The origin of prehistoric cattle in Thailand: evidence from ancient DNA
Cattle have been domesticated in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, for thousands of years, but, the history of cattle domestication in the region remains unclear. To gain some insight into cattle domestication in Thailand we extracted and sequenced DNA from 26 cattle remains, excavated from four archaeological sites located in northeastern and central Thailand, and dated to between 3,550 and 1,700 years before present (YBP) which all belonged to B. taurus. This is the first genetic evidence of when B. taurus was domesticated in Thailand.
via Myanmar Times, 04 Feb 2019: Under the draft Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Law, management of heritage sites would be decentralised to the region and states instead of by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture. I wonder how this might affect the management of the World Heritage sites.
Mandalay residents, civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental groups said the draft amendments of the Protection and Preservation of Cultural Heritage Law needs to be made stronger by including a mechanism for public participation.
The committee for the amendment of the law, which was enacted in 1998, is headed by U Myat Thu, minister for Planning and Finance of the Mandalay Region government.
Last week, the draft was discussed by members of the Pyithu Hluttaw (Lower House) Bill Committee, the Myanmar Archaeology Association and Bagan-Nyaung-U CSOs. The draft is now ready for debate in the Pyithu Hluttaw.
via Straits Times, 31 January 2019: 5.4 million visitors to national museums and heritage institutions in Singapore in 2018!
Museums and heritage institutions in Singapore are gaining popularity, with visitor numbers hitting a record high in 2017, according to data from the 2018 Singapore Cultural Statistics released yesterday.
Visitor numbers to national museums and heritage institutions reached 5.4 million in 2017, up from 5.1 million the year before.
This was in tandem with the record-high attendance of 11.3 million at free arts and cultural events, a figure released earlier, on Jan 22, by the Ministry for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
via Vietnam Net, 02 Feb 2019: An update of the restoration work on the My Son Towers by the Italian conservation team.
The current restoration process is regarded as a transition in the application of research on the construction materials as well as archaeological methods in restoring the Cham towers in My Son, members of the team said at a workshop held recently in the central province of Quang Nam.
The workshop focused on highlighting the effectiveness of the technical process used on tower E7 and tower group G. This is regarded as evidence of the efficient co-operation between the UN culture agency UNESCO, Vietnam and Italy.
Phan Ho, director of the My Son relic management board, confirmed the effectiveness of technical solutions that have been used to restore Cham towers in Vietnam, particularly those in My Son, saying that thanks to the restoration process, the relics were stable and had avoided further deterioration, and the towers should withstand the impacts of both humans and the elements.