Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’

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via the Malay Mail, 12 August 2018: An editorial from The Malay Mail weighing in on the ludicrous and racist claims by Zaharah Sulaiman on the origins of the Malays as the progenitor of a good portion of modern human populations. There is fringe and pseudo-archaeology, and then there is factually inaccurate archaeology that has very dangerous consequences on society if not enough people speak up about it.

Regardless, proponents of the “Malays Out of Sundaland” hypothesis completely ignored the fact that the “Malay” term frequently used in Malaysia is but a social construct: solely defined in the Constitution as Muslim natives who practise the Malay culture.

This definition has since been used to justify various affirmative action policies and special positions, and eventually but unfortunately, racism against others who should be afforded the same status as citizens following the formation of Malaysia.

The “Malays” is not a distinct race uniquely different from the others, but if taken as a general term would include a melange of ethnicities and backgrounds from the Malay lands.

And the eventual stinging rebuttal from five academics who worked on human population genetics, archaeology and history against Zaharah’s “Malay genes oldest” claim only serves to undermine the hypothesis.

Source: Arguing against Malays’ ‘Sundaland origins’ | Malay Mail

Negeri Sembilan’s rainbow cave dig

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via Seremban Online, 06 August 2018: The archaeology team from Universiti Sains Malaysia is currently excavating a cave site called Gua Pelangi in Negri Sembilan.

It’s not easy being the Prof, but you can tell from his smile he wouldn’t have it any other way. Squatting six feet underground, at the bottom of a carefully measured square plot in the confines of a steamy, humid cave near Kuala Pilah, Prof Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin sweeps away some dirt with a soft brush, scratches his head, leans against the muddy wall, then for three or four minutes makes some notes and draws some simple diagrams-it’s not the most glamorous part of the job done by USM Global Archaeology Research Centre director professor Mokhtar but it is exciting.

Source: Negeri Sembilan’s rainbow cave dig | serembanonline

Rebutting the myth that Malays have the second oldest genes in the world

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Malaysia has a complex history of ethnonationalism, in which people who are identified as Malay (but more accurately native Malaysians) are given special privileges over other ethnic groups in the country. This has led to a number of social, economic and political problems but the one that I want to highlight here is the misuse of science and archaeological research to advance this agenda. Last week, a historian speaking at the ominously named “The Origins of the Malay” forum “quoted” the work of the Human Genome Organisation and said that after the Africans, the Malays have the second oldest genetic lineages in the world, even going so far as to imply that the Malays were ultimately responsible for establishing the Chinese and Greek civilizations.

DNA strand. Image by Caroline Davis2010

Image by Caroline Davis2010

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Resort plans put Jerejak heritage status in doubt

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via Free Malaysia Today, 22 July 2018: Jerejak Island in Penang, Malaysia is a former leper colony that was planned for nomination in Unesco World Heritage. This plan is now in question as the state government has okayed plans for a large luxury resort to be developed on the island.

Deputy tourism minister to write to Penang chief minister about plans for luxury development on former leper colony island.

Source: Resort plans put Jerejak heritage status in doubt

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Coffin protest by Melaka Portuguese community was a desperate survival call

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via The Star, 18 July 2018: The Portuguese community is one of the oldest communities living in the Melaka World Heritage Site.

MELAKA: Coffins placed by the Portuguese community during the protest at the Melaka Gateway site office on Tuesday (July 17) are considered “sui (bad luck)” for locals, but this indicates a desperate call for survival, says state exco member Norhizam Hassan Baktee.

Source: Coffin protest by Melaka Portuguese community was a desperate survival call

Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings

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via Malay Mail, 10 July 2018: Gua Tambun is a site that I know very well – I studied it for my MA research a decade ago and have gone back to the site every couple of years. The news article incorrectly calls it the largest site in Southeast Asia, although it is one of the largest sites in the region. From the images in the news story the forest growth has been the heaviest that I’ve seen. The site has always had a problem with maintenance, but most of the rock art itself is well protected because it is out of reach of human hands. If anyone knows how to put me in touch with the relevant authorities, please send me an email – I would be very willing to help with the site’s rehabilitation.

Source: Perak govt plans to shut access to prehistoric Gua Tambun rock paintings | Malay Mail

Outrage over Sia Boey again

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via The Star, 06 June 2018:

GEORGE TOWN: The controversy surrounding the development of Sia Boey (old Prangin market) and the Prangin Canal has again sparked anger among heritage activists, this time with allegations that excavation works were being carried out illegally at the site.

GTWHI, in a statement yesterday, clarified that they were not carrying out any excavation works in Sia Boey, adding that its management has adhered to the proper procedure and protocol.

Source: Outrage over Sia Boey again

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[Paper] Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)

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New paper in PLOS One describing mandibles from the Niah Caves – these were excavated by the Harrissons in 1957.

Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)
Darren Curnoe, Ipoi Datan, Jian-xin Zhao, Charles Leh Moi Ung, Maxime Aubert, Mohammed S. Sauffi, Goh Hsiao Mei, Raynold Mendoza, Paul S. C. Taçon
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196633

The skeletal remains of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene humans are exceptionally rare in island Southeast Asia. As a result, the identity and physical adaptations of the early inhabitants of the region are poorly known. One archaeological locality that has historically been important for understanding the peopling of island Southeast Asia is the Niah Caves in the northeast of Borneo. Here we present the results of direct Uranium-series dating and the first published descriptions of three partial human mandibles from the West Mouth of the Niah Caves recovered during excavations by the Harrissons in 1957. One of them (mandible E/B1 100″) is somewhat younger than the ‘Deep Skull’ with a best dating estimate of c30-28 ka (at 2σ), while the other two mandibles (D/N5 42–48″ and E/W 33 24–36″) are dated to a minimum of c11.0–10.5 ka (at 2σ) and c10.0–9.0 ka (at 2σ). Jaw E/B1 100″ is unusually small and robust compared with other Late Pleistocene mandibles suggesting that it may have been ontogenetically altered through masticatory strain under a model of phenotypic plasticity. Possible dietary causes could include the consumption of tough or dried meats or palm plants, behaviours which have been documented previously in the archaeological record of the Niah Caves. Our work suggests a long history back to before the LGM of economic strategies involving the exploitation of raw plant foods or perhaps dried and stored meat resources. This offers new insights into the economic strategies of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene hunter-gatherers living in, or adjacent to, tropical rainforests.

Source: Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)

Muzium Negara Pieces Together Origins Of Mankind With Peking Man Exhibit

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via The Star, 08 April 2018:

Muzium Negara hosts China’s The Peking Man Exhibition: Zhoukoudian Heritage Site, a touring exhibit shedding light on a species that provides the biological link between ape and man.

Source: Muzium Negara Pieces Together Origins Of Mankind With Peking Man Exhibit | Star2.com