Researchers unearth 6,000-year-old skeleton of teenage girl in Gua Chawan, Kelantan

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Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

via Malay Mail and other sources, 18 December 2018: Archaeologists in Malaysia announce the discovery of a Mesolithic-period skeleton in Kelantan.

Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

The skeleton from the Mesolithic period or middle stone age, was found by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), archaeologists from National Heritage Department (JWN) and researchers from the History Department, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris during the archaeological excavation at the cave.

Source: Researchers unearth 6,000-year-old skeleton of teenage girl in Gua Chawan, Kelantan | Malaysia | Malay Mail

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[Scholarship] Infants and ill-health in the bioarchaeological record

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PhD scholarship opportunity from the University of Otago. Closing date is 23 September 2018.

There has been a recent surge of interest in modeling the social, economic, and emotional investment in care provision for the physically disabled in the palaeopathological literature. Human infants are born in an extreme state of helplessness and have a lengthy development phase compared with all other primates. Their immature state means that they require significant care for survival, arguably as time intensive and specialised as caring for individuals with severe health-related disabilities. However, there is very little exploration of the implications that infant and childcare has for past society. This thesis will explore stress and disease in infants and children in prehistoric Southeast Asia, and build a new theoretical model that assesses the social implications of care by assessing factors of infant and maternal health, fertility, infant feeding practices, and family and social structure.

Source: Infants and ill-health in the bioarchaeological record: who cares?, Research opportunities, Otago Medical School, University of Otago, New Zealand

Sombre KLIA ceremony marks repatriation of 27 Kiwi soldiers’ remains

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Malaysia Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu at repatriation ceremony. Source: Yahoo News, 20 August 2018

via Yahoo News, 20 August 2018: Remains of 27 New Zealand soldiers who died in wartime operations in Malaysia are repatriated after a year-long operation to identify and recover their remains.

A disinterment team of 588 bio-archaeologists, forensic anthropologists and other experts started work on March 21 last year, led by Major-General Datuk Dr Haji Mohd Ilham Haji Haron who is a forensic odontology expert at the Defence Ministry’s hospital.
Experts from New Zealand; the Army Museum Port Dickson; the Health Ministry; the Malaysian Nuclear Agency, the Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Universiti Sains Malaysia; the Institute of the Malay World and Civilisation; and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s experts in medicine, odontology and forensic biology also assisted in the victim identification and verification process.

Source: Sombre KLIA ceremony marks repatriation of 27 Kiwi soldiers’ remains

Invitation for Submissions Bioarch of SEA and the Pacific Newsletter 2018

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Dear Colleagues,

We hope everyone is well and that you are having a great start to 2018.

As it is a new year, it is time to start preparing for a new newsletter. Therefore we invite your submissions for the 2018 issue of the Bioarchaeology of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Newsletter.

We are looking for a range of submissions from bioarchaeologists and related researchers. Submissions may include short outlines of new projects, fieldwork and project updates and findings, introductions and summaries of student projects, information on upcoming bioarchaeology events and new publications relevant to researchers working in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and reviews of conferences. Photos/images are welcome with your submissions.

If you are interested in being included in this years’ newsletter, please submit your news and updates to by the 27th of April, 2018.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me by return email.

Kind regards,

Stacey Ward
on behalf of Dr Sian Halcrow, Editor, Bioarchaeology of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Newsletter

New Paper: Bioarchaeology of Care in the Metal Period, Philippines

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Vlok et al on a case of disability care in Metal Age Philippines



A case of disability in the Metal Period of the Philippines, likely requiring healthcare from others, is presented to explore aspects of group dynamics in this period of antiquity. B243, a middle-aged male excavated from the Napa site in the central Philippines, suffered severe trauma to the right leg resulting in considerable restrictions to mobility and self-maintenance of survival related behaviours such as food provision and hygiene. It is likely that B243 required assistance from others to survive for some period of time prior to eventual death. The bioarchaeology of care method was applied to assess the types of healthcare that B243 likely required, and to consider potential social and biological impacts to both B243 and his community. Provision of healthcare practice in this case suggests that B243’s community had access to health-related resources, knowledge on the treatment of his injuries and underlying values in the group for sustaining human life in the case of injury and disability.

Source: A New Application of the Bioarchaeology of Care Approach: A Case Study from the Metal Period, Philippines – Vlok – 2017 – International Journal of Osteoarchaeology – Wiley Online Library

Massive prehistoric grave site discovered in Taiwan

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A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City. Source: Reuters 20160426

Archaeologists in Taiwan report the discovery of a 5000-year-old grave site, with a particular set of bones described as a mother-and-child burial, which has been what most media have been leading with. The finds are significant, although the characterisation of the mother-and-infant bones may be exaggerated.

A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City. Source: Reuters 20160426

A man cleans a fossil of a mother and baby in Taichung City, Taiwan, April 26, 2016 in this still image taken from video. REUTERS/via Reuters

4800-Year-Old Remains of Mother and Child Found in Taiwan
New Historian, 28 April 2016

Fossilized Mother Held Baby For 4,800 Years Before Archeologists Found Them
Huffington Post, 26 April 2016

Taiwan finds 4,800-year-old fossil of mother cradling baby
Reuters, 26 April 2016

A team of archaeological researchers in Taiwan have uncovered a massive array of ancient remains dating to at least 4,800 years old – including a mother cradling an infant child, possibly her own, in her arms.

Found in central Taiwan in the Taichung region, these remains, which were discovered in excavated graves, are the oldest ever discovered within the area. The most startling discovery by far was the skeleton of the woman, as she seemed to be gazing down lovingly at the child wrapped in her arms, according to the country’s National Museum of Natural Science’s anthropology curator, Chu Whei-lee. The scientist, in a recent interview with Reuters, said the entire team was “shocked” by the tableau.

Excavations at the Taiwanese dig site began in May of 2014, running for approximately a year. For the last several months the 48 sets of remains, five of which were found to have been young children, were subjected to rigorous study. This included carbon dating, which enabled the team to narrow down the age of the fossilized remains to just a few centuries shy of 5,000 years old.

Full story here.

The first portable art from Southeast Asia

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Bone fragments from Laang Spean. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160409

The Cambodia Daily report about recent excavations at Laang Spean focuses on the possible cannibalistic angle, but I am more intrigued by the discovery of what seems to be the first instance of portable rock art in the region: a stone tool with deep etchings on it.

Bone fragments from Laang Spean. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160409

Bone fragments from Laang Spean. Source: Cambodia Daily 20160409

Ancient Skull Points to Possible Cannibalism
Cambodia Daily, 9 April 2016

A French-Cambodian archaeological team has unearthed tantalizing new artifacts from beneath a cave in Battambang province that may prove to be the earliest signs of human occupation and art in the region—and the first indication of cannibalism.

The artifacts were discovered beneath the floor of Battambang’s Laang Spean cave during a February dig by the French-Cambodian Prehistoric Mission, a collaboration between archaeologists from the Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of Na­tural History in Paris. The team has found 71,000 years worth of human remains during past visits to the site.

The latest discoveries include a palmsized stone tool buried deeper than any other artifact found at the site to date, a stone with what appears to be deep etchings, and fragments of what may be a shattered human skull found amid prehistoric food scraps.

Full story here.

Cemetery in Vanuatu sheds light on the Polynesians in the Pacific

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Bones from a 3,000-year-old cemetery in Vanuatu suggest that the earliest humans in the pacific were more similar to that of Polynesian and Asian populations rather than the Melanesian observed today.

Skeletons from Teouma cemetery. Source: ABC News 20151229

Skeletons from Teouma cemetery. Source: ABC News 20151229

Early Lapita skeletons from Vanuatu show Polynesian craniofacial shape: Implications for Remote Oceanic settlement and Lapita origins
PNAS, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1516186113

Study of ancient skulls from Vanuatu cemetery sheds light on Polynesian migration, scientists say
ABC News, 29 December 2015

New insights on origin of Polynesians
Popular Archaeology, 28 December 2015

3,000-year-old burial ground may reveal secrets of Polynesian migration
The Guardian, 28 December 2015

With a cultural and linguistic origin in Island Southeast Asia the Lapita expansion is thought to have led ultimately to the Polynesian settlement of the east Polynesian region after a time of mixing/integration in north Melanesia and a nearly 2,000-y pause in West Polynesia. One of the major achievements of recent Lapita research in Vanuatu has been the discovery of the oldest cemetery found so far in the Pacific at Teouma on the south coast of Efate Island, opening up new prospects for the biological definition of the early settlers of the archipelago and of Remote Oceania in general. Using craniometric evidence from the skeletons in conjunction with archaeological data, we discuss here four debated issues: the Lapita–Asian connection, the degree of admixture, the Lapita–Polynesian connection, and the question of secondary population movement into Remote Oceania.

Full paper here.

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

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Red Deer Cave. Source: Archaeology 20151217

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

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.

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.

Job Posting: Assistant Professor of Paleoanthropology (Boston University)

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Boston University is looking for a biological anthropologist in a tenure-track position.

The Department of Anthropology invites applications from biological anthropologists for a tenure-track position at the level of Assistant Professor starting July 1, 2016. The department encourages applicants with a research concentration in paleoanthropology or the functional and comparative morphology of humans and other primates, who can augment and complement the program’s strengths in human and primate biology. Applicants should have a Ph.D. completed by the start date, proven teaching ability, and a strong record of research and publications. Applications should be received before November 1, 2015 to ensure full consideration.

Full listing here.