Carbon dating confirms ‘Penang Woman’ is 5,710 years old

The Malay Mail, 12 May 2017: Fresh C14 dates for the skeleton found at Guar Kepah in Penang reveals it is 5,700 years old, consistent with the shell midden’s Neolithic date.

Source: Carbon dating confirms ‘Penang Woman’ is 5,710 years old | Malaysia | Malay Mail Online

See also: Carbon dating finds ‘Penang Woman’ to be 5,710 years old (The Star, 13 May 2017)

5,000-year-old skeleton found in Guar Kepah

New Straits Times, 25 April 2017: More on the skeleton found at Guar Kepah in Penang. There are now some calls to nominate the site for World Heritage, but those calls seem to be coming from politicians who may not be aware of how high the bar is.

KEPALA BATAS: The latest discovery of human skeleton, aged probably between 5,000 and 6,000 years, at the construction site of an archaeology gallery in Guar Kepah here on Monday proved the existence of prehistoric people in Peninsular Malaysia during Neolithic period.

Source: 5,000-year-old skeleton found in Guar Kepah | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

See also: State seeks Unesco listing for site of ‘Penang Woman’ discovery (Malay Mail, 25 April 2017)

Prehistoric human skeleton found at Penang neolithic site

Malay Mail, 19 April 2017: Human remains have been found during construction at Guar Kepah in Penang, a known shell midden site that has been investigated previously. The construction in question is actually the gallery site that was to display information from previous excavations! The team from USM is now studying the bones.

Source: Prehistoric human skeleton found at Penang neolithic site | Malaysia | Malay Mail Online

See also: 5,000-year-old skeleton discovered at Guar Kepah construction site (New Straits Times/Yahoo, 19 April 2017)

[Paper] Hunter-gatherer residential mobility and the marginal value of rainforest patches

New paper in PNAS; a study of Batek Negrito lifestyle patterns in Peninsular Malaysia and what it can tell us about hunter-gatherer mobility.

Hunter-gatherers are notable for their high levels of mobility, but the ecological and social cues that determine the timing of camp movements (residential mobility) are poorly understood. Using models from foraging theory, we found that, for one population of hunter-gatherers, camp movements coincided with the point at which resource acquisition declined to a critical threshold level, but before local resources were completely depleted. These results suggest that hunter-gatherer residential mobility is constrained in a predictable fashion by rates of local resource depletion.

Source: Hunter-gatherer residential mobility and the marginal value of rainforest patches

Archaeologists recover artifacts from Fort Cornwallis moat

Archaeological excavations at Penang’s Fort Cornwallis have yielded artefacts from the Straits Settlements period.

GEORGE TOWN: Despite being a tourist attraction now, Fort Cornwallis, a colonial-era defensive structure, is still turning up archaeological surprises.USM

Source: Archaeologists recover artifacts from Fort Cornwallis moat

Calls for Malaysian history books to include references to Old Kedah

History advocates in Malaysia are campaigning for the inclusion of references to Old Kedah, discovered through archaeological excavations, into history textbooks.

Call to include Old Kedah civilisation in history textbooks
Free Malaysia Today, 05 July 2016

New facts on Old Kedah, which has been declared as the earliest and oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia, should be immediately included in history books used as textbooks in schools.

Chairman of the Malaysian Historical Society Kedah branch, Prof Dr Wan Shamsuddin Mohd Yusof said the information was necessary so the young generation could be aware of the existence of the more than 2,000 year-old treasure at the Sungai Batu Archaeology Complex.

“This is history, not a myth, or merely a legend, but something that should be the pride of Malaysians, that we have the oldest civilisation in Southeast Asia,” he told Bernama.

On May 23, the Sungai Batu Archaeology Complex was declared the earliest and oldest civilisation in this region and five archaeologists, representing five main civilisations in the world, namely Mesopotamia, Indus, Mesoamerica, China and Greek-Rome, signed the declaration plaque.

Full story here.

Reassessing the Deep Skull from Niah

A study of the Deep Skull from Niah has some new interpretations – female, not male;and likely originating from East Asia.

The Deep Skull of Niah. Source: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
The Deep Skull of Niah. Source: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

Deep Skull from Niah Cave and the Pleistocene Peopling of Southeast Asia
Front. Ecol. Evol., 27 June 2016 | http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2016.00075

37,000-year-old skull from Borneo reveals surprise for scientists
Popular archaeology, 27 June 2016

Could this skull rewrite human history? 37,000-year-old cranium found in Borneo may be evidence that ancient Aborigines were not the first to settle in Pacific island
Daily Mail, 27 June 2016

The Deep Skull from Niah Cave in Sarawak (Malaysia) is the oldest anatomically modern human recovered from island Southeast Asia. For more than 50 years its relevance to tracing the prehistory of the region has been controversial. The most widely held view, originating with Brothwell’s 1960 description and analysis, is that the Niah individual is related to Indigenous Australians. Here we undertake a new assessment of the Deep Skull and consider its bearing on this question. In doing so, we provide a new and comprehensive description of the cranium including a reassessment of its ontogenetic age, sex, morphology, and affinities. We conclude that this individual was most likely to have been of advanced age and female, rather than an adolescent male as originally proposed. The morphological evidence strongly suggests that the Deep Skull samples the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo, most likely originating on mainland East Asia. We also show that the affinities of the specimen are most likely to be with the contemporary indigenous people of Borneo, although, similarities to the population sometimes referred to as Philippine Negritos cannot be excluded. Finally, our research suggests that the widely supported “two-layer” hypothesis for the Pleistocene peopling of East/Southeast Asia is unlikely to apply to the earliest inhabitants of Borneo, in-line with the picture emerging from genetic studies of the contemporary people from the region.

Paper here.

Old Kedah Festival news roundup

Old Kedah, or Kedah Tua in Malay, and the archaeological findings of the Bujang Valley in northern Peninsular Malaysia were the focus of a local festival held last month. The events included an international conference, and from the news reports two themes seem apparent: the disagreement on whether the ruins of the Bujang Valley represent an animist or Hindu-Buddhist tradition, and the news that the remains of the Hindu temples that have previously been uncovered in the valley will not be nominated and protected under Unesco World Heritage. There’s a lot of subtext to read between the news reports, but it seems there is an attempt to downplay the influence of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Bujang Valley sites.

Source: Bernama, via Malay Mail 20160521
Source: Bernama, via Malay Mail 20160521

Experts disagree on religion practised at ruins older than Borobodur and Angkor Wat
The Star, 21 May 2016

World archaeological experts fascinated by Sungai Batu ancient site
Malay Mail, 21 May 2016

Ministry seeks allocation to develop Sungai Batu into historical tourism site
Malay Mail, 21 May 2016

No to heritage listing on Hindu-Buddhist temple ruins
The Star, 21 May 2016

Religious pluralism a likelihood in Bujang Valley
Free Malaysia Today, 23 May 2016

Ancient seaport of Sg Batu
New Straits Times, 23 May 2016

Sg Batu declared SEA’s oldest civilisation
Free Malaysia Today, 23 May 2016

Bujang Valley: Need for proof to be a heritage site?
The Star, 26 May 2016

Minister slams government for lack of Bujang Valley protection

A state minister in Malaysia has criticised the federal government of Malaysia for not protecting the Bujang Valley in Kedah as a heritage site.

Bujang Valley Museum

Ramasamy furious Bujang Valley not yet a heritage site
FMT News, 22 April 2016

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy has slammed the federal government for not preserving the historical Bujang Valley in Kedah by gazetting it as a heritage site.

The DAP leader was responding to a recent report in The Sun that a group of local university students were found playing “station games” atop a candi (ancient tomb or temple built during the Hindu and Buddhist periods) at the Archaeological Museum there.

“Despite the monuments there dating back more than 2000 years, the site has not received the kind of attention that is due from the Malaysian government.

“While the Bujang Valley has not been gazetted as a heritage site despite many requests, the ancient monuments and sites face the danger of being abused or even demolished by unscrupulous land developers,” he said in a statement today, citing the demolition of a reconstructed candi by a developer to make way for a housing project in the valley, several years ago.

Full story here.

200-year-old gravestones found in Kuala Lumpur

200-year-old gravestones were discovered near a historic mosque in Kuala Lumpur, during construction work that is part of a riverside beautification project.

Gravestones found in Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. Source: The Star: 20160413
Gravestones found in Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. Source: The Star: 20160413

Rock-solid proof of 200-year-old graves
The Star, 13 April 2016

Gravestones find ‘will not affect construction’
The Star, 04 May 2016

Contractors digging up the vicinity of the century-old Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur for the River of Life (RoL) project stumbled upon several gravestones believed to be from the early 18th century.

So far more than 45 gravestones, mostly granite and a few marble as well as sandstone ones dating back almost 200 years were found buried near the construction site from December 2015 to March this year.

It is learnt that the RoL project conservator had alerted workers who are currently constructing a water fountain at the site to be on the lookout for more artefacts to emerge.

The site where the project is taking shape was a Muslim cemetery two centuries ago.

Full story here and here.