East Asia in the annals of human evolution

Darren Curnoe argues that recent archaeological finds from East Asia and Southeast Asia hint at fundamental changes in our understanding of human evolution.

East Asia makes a comeback in the human evolution stakes
The Conversation, 22 January 2016

Archaeological discoveries in East Asia over the last decade or so have dramatically rewritten our understanding of human evolution.

But the implications don’t sit easily with many scholars internationally who continue to see Europe and Africa as the heartland of human origins.

For more than 150 years our understanding of human evolution has been largely shaped by the discoveries made in Europe and parts of Africa, like the caves near Johannesburg and the Great Rift Valley on the east of the continent.

Full story here.

Job Posting: Assistant Professor of Paleoanthropology (Boston University)

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.

New study supports Australo-melanesians as part of the first wave Out of Africa

How did anatomically modern humans populate the world? A recent paper in the Journal of Human Evolution analyses the fossil record and concludes that australo-melanesians – ancestors of several indigenous populations including those found in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia and Australia – were part of the initial migration out of Africa, while other populations dispersed later.

Australo-Melanesians and a very ancient ancestry
Popular Archaeology, 05 August 2015

Testing modern human out-of-Africa dispersal models and implications for modern human origins
Journal of Human Evolution doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2015.06.008

The modern human expansion process out of Africa has important implications for understanding the genetic and phenotypic structure of extant populations. While intensely debated, the primary hypotheses focus on either a single dispersal or multiple dispersals out of the continent. Here, we use the human fossil record from Africa and the Levant, as well as an exceptionally large dataset of Holocene human crania sampled from Asia, to model ancestor–descendant relationships along hypothetical dispersal routes. We test the spatial and temporal predictions of competing out-of-Africa models by assessing the correlation of geographical distances between populations and measures of population differentiation derived from quantitative cranial phenotype data. Our results support a model in which extant Australo-Melanesians are descendants of an initial dispersal out of Africa by early anatomically modern humans, while all other populations are descendants of a later migration wave. Our results have implications for understanding the complexity of modern human origins and diversity.

The voices arguing against repatriation

Coming from a region that falls victim to frequent looting of archaeological sites, I personally find it hard to agree against the repatriation of artefacts that have been proven to be stolen, such as the case of the Koh Ker sculpture that still remains in the Denver Museum of Art.

Experts disagree over antiquity repatriations
Phnom Penh Post, 23 May 2015

While an unknown number of looted Cambodian artefacts – mostly taken during the turbulent 1970s and ’80s – are scattered in private collections around the world, a number have found their way into major museums’ exhibits. The recently returned Hanuman statue, for instance, was one of nine statues looted from Prasat Chen temple in the Koh Ker temple complex.

Four of the other Prasat Chen statues have been repatriated by various US museums and auction houses in recent years, three are unaccounted for, while a torso of the Hindu god Rama remains in the Denver Museum of Art.

“I would be very grateful to these private owners, if they read these lines, to give them back generously to Cambodia to reunify the nine sculptures of this unique but incomplete ensemble depicting the Mahabharata,” said Anne LeMaistre, head of UNESCO in Cambodia.

Full story here.

Public Lecture: Digging the Urban Landscape

Readers in Singapore may be interested in this upcoming talk at the National Museum of Singapore.


Digging the Urban Landscape: Complexities of Interpreting and Presenting Archaeology in London and Singapore
Frank Meddens and Lim Chen Sian
Date and Time: 26 November 2014, 7pm
Venue: The Salon, National Museum of Singapore
Continue reading “Public Lecture: Digging the Urban Landscape”

Calling for Archaeology Photo Contributions!

And now for something fun and different! Do you have an awesome archaeology-related photo that you’d like to share? This is a call for contributions for the first-ever Southeast Asian Archaeology Photo Exhibition, to be hosted on this site. Archaeology is a very visual field and the subjects come in all shapes and sizes. Certainly from my fieldwork I’ve got tons of snaps of sites, artefacts and figures and I’m sure many of you do too. I’m inviting you to share one (just one) photograph showcasing your favourite archaeological site, ongoing archaeological work, recent discoveries, or a brilliant photograph that your friends really ‘liked’ on Facebook. This is a first attempt at a curating a crowdsourced photography exhibition, and I’ll have the entries up next month. Details on how to contribute after the jump!

A mould of a Buddha head at Poueng Komnou, Cambodia
A mould of a Buddha head at Poueng Komnou, Cambodia

Continue reading “Calling for Archaeology Photo Contributions!”

Call for sessions and Papers: 2nd Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage, May 12-16 2014

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and University of Hawaii welcome you to the Second Asia-Pacific regional conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage
– Date: 12-16 May 2014
– Location: Honolulu Hawaii
– Host organisations: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation; University of Hawaii Marine Option Program

This conference aims to:
– address management and protection strategies of underwater cultural heritage in Asia and the countries of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in the 21st Century
– facilitate regional cooperation through the development of academic and governmental networks in the Asia-Pacific region
– provide a forum for discussion of technical and ethical issues related to underwater cultural heritage and underwater archaeology
A wide range of people involved with underwater cultural heritage are encouraged to attend including those from universities, government agencies, museums, NGOs, IGOs, the private sector and the community. This conference follows the Inaugural Asian Academy for Heritage Management Asia-Pacific Regional Conference hosted by the National Museum of the Philippines, November 2011.

Key dates:
Theme and Session Submission Deadline: July 30, 2013
– Theme and session organizers shall submit theme or session descriptions via email to the APCONF session committee (Athiyaman Natarajan: rajachidam@gmail.com) for consideration.
Paper Abstract Submission Deadline: August 30, 2013
Paper Submission Deadline: October 30, 2013

Please access to the Conference Web-site for further details, including Call for Papers/Sessions, Author’s Guidelines, etc: http://www.apconf.org/call-for/call-for-papers/

Dr. Hans Van Tilburg
on behalf of the APCONF 2014 Organizing Committee

Call for Proposals: Gerda Henkel Foundation M4HUMAN Fellowship programme

The Gerda Henkel Foundation is offering fellowships for experienced researchers in the humanities – including Archaeology, Art History, Prehistory and Early History. Applications close 15 June 2012.

Call for Proposals: Marie Curie Fellowships of the Gerda Henkel Foundation

Starting in 2011, the Gerda Henkel Foundation is offering Marie Curie Fellowships in the M4HUMAN (Mobility for experienced researchers in historical humanities and Islamic studies) programme aimed at supporting outstanding scholars. This funding initiative is co-financed by the European Commission under the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research. One objective of this fixed-term programme is to increase networking between researchers in the historical humanities at the international level, including researchers in religious, cultural and political sciences under the special programme “Islam, the Modern Nation State and Transnational Movements”. Other goals include the promotion of trans-national academic exchange, increasing transnational mobility, facilitating further education and the positive and long-term influencing of the research environment in both origin and destination countries. Research scholarships can be requested for a larger-scale research work or in connection with a research project.

For more details about this fellowship opportunity, see here.

Introducing the archaeograph

I mentioned working on another web project. Over the past couple of years I’ve been thinking more and more about the craft of photography in the practice of archaeology. Mostly because I work with rock art where digital photography has become the most common (and sometimes the only) way of recording them. So I’ve set up a thinking space for archaeological photography, and thus, the Archaeograph:


This blog has a decidedly more tech and geek slant to it, talking about equipment, techniques and photographic experiments. Check it out, and if you’re so inclined, subscribe to it.

Hmmm… Eventually I’ll have to fit writing a thesis in between of all this!