Hominin occupation in China from 2.1 million years ago

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Of potential interest for Southeast Asia: 2.1 million-year-old stone tools discovered in China pushes back the dates of hominins outside of Africa by several hundred thousand years. The term “Southern Chinese Loess Plateau” may be a little confusing: it’s not in Southern China, and the area of discovery sits between the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers.

Hominin occupation of the Chinese Loess Plateau since about 2.1 million years ago
Zhu et. al
Nature
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0299-4

Considerable attention has been paid to dating the earliest appearance of hominins outside Africa. The earliest skeletal and artefactual evidence for the genus Homo in Asia currently comes from Dmanisi, Georgia, and is dated to approximately 1.77–1.85 million years ago (Ma)1. Two incisors that may belong to Homo erectus come from Yuanmou, south China, and are dated to 1.7 Ma2; the next-oldest evidence is an H. erectus cranium from Lantian (Gongwangling)—which has recently been dated to 1.63 Ma3—and the earliest hominin fossils from the Sangiran dome in Java, which are dated to about 1.5–1.6 Ma4. Artefacts from Majuangou III5 and Shangshazui6 in the Nihewan basin, north China, have also been dated to 1.6–1.7 Ma. Here we report an Early Pleistocene and largely continuous artefact sequence from Shangchen, which is a newly discovered Palaeolithic locality of the southern Chinese Loess Plateau, near Gongwangling in Lantian county. The site contains 17 artefact layers that extend from palaeosol S15—dated to approximately 1.26 Ma—to loess L28, which we date to about 2.12 Ma. This discovery implies that hominins left Africa earlier than indicated by the evidence from Dmanisi.

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Misteri Mata Panah dan Kerangka Manusia di Maros

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via Mongo Bay, 09 June 2018: The archaeology of Makassar and the prehistoric Toalian culture. Article is in Bahasa.

  Maros point, begitu nama mata panah ini. Usia diperkirakan antara 7.000 hingga 3.500 tahun. Benda ini ditemukan di banyak tempat di kawasan karts Maros, termasuk di Leang Jarie. Bulan…

Source: Misteri Mata Panah dan Kerangka Manusia di Maros

Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago

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Very exciting news out of the Philippines today, a paper published in Nature describes the discovery of stone tools and a butchered rhino fossil in the Cagayan Valley that dates to between 777,000 – 631,000 years ago. This early date forces us to rethink hominin capabilities in crossing water during the Pleistocene.

Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago
Ingicco et al.
Nature, doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0072-8

Over 60 years ago, stone tools and remains of megafauna were discovered on the Southeast Asian islands of Flores, Sulawesi and Luzon, and a Middle Pleistocene colonization by Homo erectus was initially proposed to have occurred on these islands1,2,3,4. However, until the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, claims of the presence of archaic hominins on Wallacean islands were hypothetical owing to the absence of in situ fossils and/or stone artefacts that were excavated from well-documented stratigraphic contexts, or because secure numerical dating methods of these sites were lacking. As a consequence, these claims were generally treated with scepticism5. Here we describe the results of recent excavations at Kalinga in the Cagayan Valley of northern Luzon in the Philippines that have yielded 57 stone tools associated with an almost-complete disarticulated skeleton of Rhinoceros philippinensis, which shows clear signs of butchery, together with other fossil fauna remains attributed to stegodon, Philippine brown deer, freshwater turtle and monitor lizard. All finds originate from a clay-rich bone bed that was dated to between 777 and 631 thousand years ago using electron-spin resonance methods that were applied to tooth enamel and fluvial quartz. This evidence pushes back the proven period of colonization6 of the Philippines by hundreds of thousands of years, and furthermore suggests that early overseas dispersal in Island South East Asia by premodern hominins took place several times during the Early and Middle Pleistocene stages1,2,3,4. The Philippines therefore may have had a central role in southward movements into Wallacea, not only of Pleistocene megafauna7, but also of archaic hominins.

Source: Earliest known hominin activity in the Philippines by 709 thousand years ago | Nature

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A reassessment of the early archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a Late Pleistocene rock-shelter site on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi

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A new paper on PLOS One describes stone tools finds from the rock shelter of Leang Burung in Sulawesi, dating to more than 50,000 years – but it is uncertain which species of humans made them.

This paper presents a reassessment of the archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a key early human occupation site in the Late Pleistocene of Southeast Asia. Excavated originally by Ian Glover in 1975, this limestone rock-shelter in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, Indonesia, has long held significance in our understanding of early human dispersals into ‘Wallacea’, the vast zone of oceanic islands between continental Asia and Australia. We present new stratigraphic information and dating evidence from Leang Burung 2 collected during the course of our excavations at this site in 2007 and 2011–13. Our findings suggest that the classic Late Pleistocene modern human occupation sequence identified previously at Leang Burung 2, and proposed to span around 31,000 to 19,000 conventional 14C years BP (~35–24 ka cal BP), may actually represent an amalgam of reworked archaeological materials. Sources for cultural materials of mixed ages comprise breccias from the rear wall of the rock-shelter–remnants of older, eroded deposits dated to 35–23 ka cal BP–and cultural remains of early Holocene antiquity. Below the upper levels affected by the mass loss of Late Pleistocene deposits, our deep-trench excavations uncovered evidence for an earlier hominin presence at the site. These findings include fossils of now-extinct proboscideans and other ‘megafauna’ in stratified context, as well as a cobble-based stone artifact technology comparable to that produced by late Middle Pleistocene hominins elsewhere on Sulawesi.

Source: A reassessment of the early archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a Late Pleistocene rock-shelter site on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi | PLOS One, doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193025

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German police hand over antiquities to Vietnam

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via Vietnam Plus, 30 March 2018:

The Vietnamese Embassy in Germany on March 29 received antiques which Berlin police seized from an unidentified Vietnamese entrepreneur in late 2016.

Berlin police said the objects consist of 10 stone tools and eight bronze tools. Archaeologists from many in Berlin examined these objects and found they date back to between the second and the seventh centuries BC and could belong to tombs in the third century BC

Source: German police hand over antiquities to Vietnam (Vietnam Plus)

Categories: Lithics Vietnam

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Archaeologists uncover ancient trading network in Vietnam

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A new paper in Antiquity reveals the circulation and manufacture of stone tools during the Neolithic in Southern Vietnam. The paper is published by some of my former colleagues at the Australian National University.

A new study shows a number of settlements along the Mekong Delta region of Southern Vietnam were part of a sophisticated scheme where large volumes of items were manufactured and circulated over hundreds of kilometres.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Frieman School of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said the discovery significantly changes what was known about early Vietnamese culture.

“We knew some artefacts were being moved around but this shows evidence for a major trade network that also included specialist tool-makers and technological knowledge. It’s a whole different ball game,” Dr Frieman said.

Source: Archaeologists uncover ancient trading network in Vietnam

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[Lecture] A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand

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Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this lecture at the Siam Society on 24 August 2017 by Anna Bennett.

In October 2014, a finely decorated Śunga ringstone was found by the owner of a sand quarry on the Tha Tapao River on the eastern side of Isthmus region of the Thai peninsula. The ringstone is a characteristic, almost defining object of the Mauryan – Śunga periods of Northern India, where possibly as many as 70 have been recorded from the Punjab, eastwards along the Ganges Valley to Bihar. A few ringstones are held in major museums outside India, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and the British Museum in London, the Asian Art Museum in Berlin, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Los Angeles County Museum. A few are also in private collections. The present example from Peninsular Thailand is the only one known to have been found outside the Indian subcontinent, thus providing yet more clear evidence for ancient contacts and trade between India and Thailand from the early centuries BCE, which long predated the establishment of the later Indian-influenced kingdoms in Southeast Asia. The function of these ringstones has never been clarified, although the author suggests that jewellery moulds remain a likely explanation for the extraordinary level of carved detail. Other suggestions have included that they were ear spools, although this seems improbable, on the practical grounds of their weight. Others have suggested a cult use or use as an apotropaic or physical contraceptive device due to the depiction of the nude mother goddess alternating with the ‘Tree of Life’. This ringstone was found at the same site as at least four very thin and fragmentary gold circular foils, which is the first occurrence of such an association, and lends weight to the hypothesis that the ringstones were perhaps, among other things, moulds for beating thin gold sheet ornaments. One of the gold sheets has an animal decorative motif which is very similar to that on the ringstone itself and the other has a repoussé design of interlinked ‘S’ motifs very similar to the only other known gold sheet, which was found in a burial context in India.

Source: A Mauryan–Śunga Period Ringstone: 3rd-1st Century BCE, found in Peninsular Thailand. A talk by Anna Bennett

Stone workshop suggests hominids in Central Vietnam 800,000 years ago

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Stone tools from Gia Lai. Source: Viet Nam Net 20160707

Stone tools estimated to be around 700,000-800,000 years old in Central Vietnam suggest the presence of hominids during the Paleolithic.

Stone tools from Gia Lai. Source: Viet Nam Net 20160707

Stone tools from Gia Lai. Source: Viet Nam Net 20160707

Discovery about ancient workshop stirs archeological community
Vietnam Net, 07 July 2016

The team of archaeologists from the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology & Ethnology belonging to the Russian Federal Science Academy and the Institute of Archaeology and Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences made the discovery about the existence of a production workshop of Vietnamese primitive men.

Dr Nguyen Gia Doi, Deputy Director of the Institute of Archaeology, said the exact name of the relic site is an early paleolithic relic with fossil tektite samples believed to be aged 770,000-800,000 years and stone artifacts such as hand axes.

This means that the upper course of the Ba River in An Khe was the place for people 700,000 years ago. This s the oldest appearance of humans and civilization ever recorded in Vietnamese territory.

Full story here.

Bronze moulds found in Yen Bai Province

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Bronze moulds from Yen Bai Province. source: Viet Nam Net 20160628

Stone moulds used for metal working were discovered in northern Vietnam.

Bronze moulds from Yen Bai Province. source: Viet Nam Net 20160628

Bronze moulds from Yen Bai Province. source: Viet Nam Net 20160628

Dong Son-era bronze casting moulds found in Yen Bai
Viet Nam Net, 28 June 2016

Axe- and chisel-shaped moulds made of stone dating back to the Dong Son civilisation (about 2,000 – 3,000 years ago) have been discovered in the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai.

The axe-shaped mould is 8.1cm long, 5.1cm wide and 2cm thick, and weighs 120 grammes. Meanwhile, the chisel-shaped one is 11.2cm long, 5.6cm wide and 3.2cm thick, and weighs 360 grammes.

The two stone moulds are being kept at the provincial museum, according to the museum’s Deputy Director Ly Kim Khoa.

He said in early March this year, a farmer found two stone objects with unusual carvings at an eroded section on the Hong (Red) riverbank in Dong An commune, Yen Bai’s Van Yen district. The farmer sent the objects to the museum for examination.

Full story here.