PhD Scholarship Opportunity – Archaeology at The Australian National University

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A PhD Scholarship opportunity in archaeology at the Australian National University, under Prof. Sue O’Connor (disclosure: my former supervisor). Deadline is 1 June 2018.

The candidate will have the opportunity to work on one of the key archaeological sites located within Australia, New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and Indonesia as part of a broader goal to investigate the signature of the peopling and subsequent history of Wallacea and Sahul (Australia and New Guinea). Sites in both regions have rich archaeological assemblages beginning as early as 65,000 years ago but few have continuous occupation sequences.

Through CABAH’s Irinjili Research Training Program, the candidate will participate in regular Masterclasses, Short Courses and Thematic Workshops, to improve technical and professional skills. Please contact Professor Sue O’Connor for further information and to discuss specific projects that you may be interested in developing.

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree with at least upper second-class honours (first class honours is preferred) or equivalent, or a Graduate Diploma or Master’s degree with a significant research thesis component and/or relevant experience.

This scholarship includes paid medical and leave entitlements, travel reimbursement, and thesis reimbursement. A fee waiver may be offered for outstanding international students. The ANU College of Asia and the Pacific provides an additional top-up fund to support fieldwork, travel and conference attendance of $7500 plus $800 for copy editing for the period of the scholarship. Other benefits include funding for fieldwork, specialist analyses, and radiocarbon dates necessary to complete the PhD will be available through CABAH.

Source: PhD Scholarship – Archaeology at The Australian National University

[Paper] Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia

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New paper on newly-discovered rock art on Kisar Island, Indonesia by O’Connor et al. published in the Cambridge Archaeology Journal. What’s really interesting in this paper is the fact that the paintings have some similarities with those from East Timor, about 20 km across the sea.

Painted rock art occurs throughout the islands of the Western Pacific and has previously been argued to have motif and design elements in common, indicating that it was created within the context of a shared symbolic system. Here we report five new painted rock-art sites from Kisar Island in eastern Indonesia and investigate the commonalities between this art and the painted art corpus in Timor-Leste, the independent nation that forms the eastern part of the neighbouring island of Timor. We examine the motifs in the Kisar art and suggest that, rather than being Neolithic in age, some of the figurative motifs more likely have a Metal Age origin, which in this region places them within the last 2500 years.

Source: Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia | Cambridge Archaeological Journal | Cambridge Core

See also

New Paper: Rock art and the colonisation of Southeast Asia

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Over the past decade, archaeologists have been able to directly date rock art, particularly in Island Southeast Asia at sites in East Kalimantan, East Timor and South Sulawesi. The dates of rock art indicate that modern humans were creating rock art during the Pleistocene, comparable to similar rock art in Europe. In this paper by Aubert et al., the authors note that the presence of these sites and dates now begs the question, did the ability to create rock art move out of Africa with human migrations, or did it erupt independently in different parts of the world? Also within Island Southeast Asia, did rock art develop from a specific place and spread throughout prehistoric Sahul, or did it arise independently among different communities in the region?

Recent technological developments in scientific dating methods and their applications to a broad range of materials have transformed our ability to accurately date rock art. These novel breakthroughs in turn are challenging and, in some instances, dramatically changing our perceptions of the timing and the nature of the development of rock art and other forms of symbolic expression in various parts of the late Pleistocene world. Here we discuss the application of these methods to the dating of rock art in Southeast Asia, with key implications for understanding the pattern of recent human evolution and dispersal outside Africa.

The Timing and Nature of Human Colonization of Southeast Asia in the Late Pleistocene: A Rock Art Perspective – Current Anthropology
https://doi.org/10.1086/694414

A Dong Son drum in East Timor

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Source: Viet Nam Net 20151203

A hint into the potential archaeology from East Timor – the discovery of a bronze Dong Son drum in Baucau. There have been several such drums found in East Timor now, and similar drums turn up all over Southeast Asia which suggests a rather extensive exchange network of either goods or expertise across the region 2,000 years ago.

Source: Viet Nam Net 20151203

Source: Viet Nam Net 20151203

Vietnam’s ancient Dong Son drum found in Timor Leste
Viet Nam Net, 03 december 2015

A relatively intact bronze drum believed to belong to the Dong Son culture, originating in Vietnam over 2,000 years ago, has recently been discovered in Timor Leste.

The drum, 1.03 metres in diameter, 78 cm in height, and 80kg in weight, was found accidentally at a construction site in Baucau, the second largest city in Timor Leste, in late 2014. However, official information was just released in late November this year after researchers had conducted preliminary assessment.

Archaeologist Nuno Vasco Oliveira from the Timor Lester Government’s General Directorate of Art and Culture said he is certain that the item is a Dong Son bronze drum – an icon of the Dong Son culture (700 B.C. – 100 AD) of the ancient Vietnamese people.

This is not the first time a Dong Son drum has been found in Timor Leste. The ones previously unearthed were badly damaged while the newly found item is in a relatively good condition.

Full story here.

Largest-ever rat fossils discovered in East Timor

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Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Very pleased to see my former colleagues at the ANU featured in this news – the discovery of the largest rat fossils ever, from East Timor.

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

The largest to have existed – giant rat fossils
ANU, 06 November 2015

Dog-Size Rats Once Lived Alongside Humans
LiveScience, 06 November 2015

Archaeologists with The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered fossils of seven giant rat species on East Timor, with the largest up to 10 times the size of modern rats.

Dr Julien Louys of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language, who is helping lead the project said these are the largest known rats to have ever existed.

“They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog,” Dr Louys said.

“Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo.”

The work is part of the From Sunda to Sahul project which is looking at the earliest human movement through Southeast Asia. Researchers are now trying to work out exactly what caused the rats to die out.

Full story here and here.

Set Square

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Elena Piotto

Elena Piotto

Elena Piotto
The Australian National University
Matja Kuru 2 in Timor-Leste. The initial phase of an excavation commences when squares are set out. This photo shows the old pit (from a previous field trip) in the foreground while the new squares are being strung. Equipment surrounds the section – ready and waiting for the excavation to begin in earnest.

Stone faces found in Timor cave

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Researchers working in the Lene Hara Cave in eastern tip of East Timor have reported a previously-undiscovered set of stone carvings of faces. U/Th dating of the petroglyphs put them to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.

Stone Faces from East Timor, Brisbane Times 20110214

Faces of the ancestors revealed: discovery and dating of a Pleistocene-age petroglyph in Lene Hara Cave, East Timor
O’Connor et al, 2010. Antiquity 84:325, pp 649-665

Face to face with 10,000 year-old carvings
Brisbane Times, 14 Feb 2011

SE Asia’s oldest rock carving found by surprise
Australian Geographic, 15 Feb 2011
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Linkdump Feb 01-13, 2011

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Here’s a list of archaeology stories from Southeast Asia that I missed out on over the last two weeks. Most prominently has been the eruption of fighting between the military forces of Cambodia and Thailand at the border near Preah Vihear:

Preah Vihear, wikicommons

  • Alison in Cambodia has been keeping tabs on the situation far more competently than I am. Check her posts out here, here and here.
  • 2 die as Thai, Cambodian troops battle at border [AP, via Jakarta Post, 04 Feb 2011]
  • Villagers flee deadly clashes on Thai-Cambodian border [Malaysia Sun, 06 Feb 2011]
  • Thai, Cambodian clashes resume at disputed border [AP, via TodayOnline, 07 Feb 2011]
  • Temple at centre of Thai-Cambodian dispute [AFP, vis SBS, 07 Feb 2011]
  • Call For Preah Vihear Temple To Be Handed To UN [Bernama, 07 Feb 2011]
  • Ancient temple at centre of Thai-Cambodian dispute [AFP, vis MSN Philippines, 07 Feb 2011]
  • The Preah Vihar issue damages not only the temple but also mutual understanding [ETN, 07 Feb 2011]
  • Hindus ask ASEAN to save Shiva temple from further damage in Thai-Cambodia clash [ANI, via Daily India, 08 Feb 2011]
  • Thai-Cambodian border quiet as UNESCO eyes temple visit [AFP, via Channel NewsAsia, 09 Feb 2011
  • Unesco should not send its team to Preah Vihear temple : Thai FM [The Nation, 09 Feb 2011]
  • Cambodia, Thailand to face UN over border dispute [AFP, 09 Feb 2011]
  • Foreign Ministry opposes Unesco temple visit [Bangkok Post, 10 Feb 2011]
  • Historic temple caught in Thai-Cambodia crossfire [WHP TV, 10 Feb 2011]
  • Thailand to urge UNESCO to review Preah Vihear’s World Heritage listing [MCOT, 10 Feb 2011]
  • Cambodia to shun bilateral dialogue [The Nation, 13 Feb 2011]
  • PM: No surprise that Cambodia not attending JBC meeting [MCOT, 13 Feb 2011]
  • UN to meet over Preah Vihear [Phnom Penh Post, 13 Feb 2011]

More news after the jump.
Read More

Timor cave may reveal how humans reached Australia

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22 December 2006 (The Age, Sydney Morning Herald) – It’s rare to hear about archaeological information from East Timor (Timor Leste). This one reports of the Jerimalai site, which was inhabited as far back as 42,000 years ago.

Timor cave may reveal how humans reached Australia

AN AUSTRALIAN archaeologist has discovered the oldest evidence of occupation by modern humans on the islands that were the stepping stones from South-East Asia to Australia.

A cave site in East Timor where people lived more than 42,000 years ago, eating turtles, tuna and giant rats, was unearthed by Sue O’Connor, head of archaeology and natural history at the Australian National University.

Dr O’Connor also found ancient stone tools and shells used for decoration in the limestone shelter, known as Jerimalai, on the eastern tip of the island.

She said her discovery could help solve the mystery of the route ancient seafarers took to get here from South-East Asia.

It strengthens the view that they made a southern passage, via Timor, rather than travelling northwards via Borneo and Sulawesi, then down through Papua New Guinea. “The antiquity of the Jerimalai shelter makes this site significant at a world level,” said Dr O’Connor, who presented the findings at the annual conference of the Australian Archaeological Association this month.