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.

World's oldest anthropoid fossil found in Krabi

Not strictly an archaeology story, but readers with an interest in primate anthropoid fossils might be interested in this story. (8/1 update: Raymond notes that the terminology used in the article is wrong, and that it’s not so much a primate as much as an anthropoid.)

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Oldest primate fossils found
Bangkok Post, 07 January 2010
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Ancient elephant fossil recovered in Java

A nearly-intact skeleton of an ancient skeleton was unearthed near the small town of Blora in Java. The elephant was estimated to have lived between one to two million years ago, possibly rubbing shoulders with the homo erectus. The fossil was excavate with the help of experts from Australia, and is on display at the Geology Museum in Bandung.

Skull
photo credit: wonker

Ancient Elephant Unearthed in Java
Jakarta Globe, 11 June 2009
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Fossil of common ancestor found in Burma

It’s the news like these that reminds us about how much more there is to know about human evolution. This time, an exciting fossil discovery of the jawbone and teeth of an extinct primate species has been found near Bagan, in Myanmar. The now-dubbed Ganlea megacanina was a common ancestor to humans and apes who lived 38 million years ago. The added significance of the date is that it lends support to the thesis that the common ancestor of humans and apes came not from Africa, but perhaps from Asia instead. I’ll expect we’ll revisit this idea in time to come, until more fossils are found – if they can survive this long.

Myanmar fossil may shed light on evolution

AP, 02 July 2009

A new primate from the Eocene Pondaung Formation of Myanmar and the monophyly of Burmese amphipithecids
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 01 July 2009
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The hobbit's a new species! Again. Or not.

You know it’s a sign of hobbit-fatigue when a new claim about the hobbit pops up, and all you can say is, “…uh-huh.” This new claim swings the pendulum back to the “new species” camp, after a new study compared the cranial morphology of the hobbit with a simulated 3D model of a hominid with the same size. The correlations in the 3D model seem to indicate that the hobbit fits the parameters of a small hominid rather than a human, deformed or otherwise.

Of course, this is not the last we are going to hear about the issue. I doubt detractors are going to accept the hobbit-as-a-separate thesis on the basis that the hobbit’s cranium fits the prediction by a computer model. Incidentally, the Journal of Human Evolution has a whole series of papers published around the same time about the Flores skeletons and archaeological material, including descriptions of the Hobbit skeletons.

‘Hobbit’ Fossils Represent A New Species, Concludes Anthropologist
Science Daily, 17 Dec 2008

Size, shape, and asymmetry in fossil hominins: The status of the LB1 cranium based on 3D morphometric analyses
Journal of Human Evolution, 04 December 2008
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Atlas of Vietnam's palaeontology to be published next year

The Viet Nam Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources is set to publish a laboriously-compiled atlas of Vietnam’s palaeontology next year.

Scientists map out VN’s palaeontology

Viet Nam News, 29 July 2008
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Patiayam: The next Sangiran?

Numerous fossil finds in the Patiayam have shown that the mountainous region in Java is rich with faunal remains dating back to a million years BP. The potential richness of these finds have been compared to the other famous prehistoric site Sangiran. However, there has been little able to be done with these finds due to a lack of resources and funding.

Patiayam: Site of great fossil finds
The Jakarta Post, 15 February 2008
Link is not static, and the story remains on the Jakarta Post website for seven days.
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Hobbits could be mutants!

A newly-defined disease is speculated a possible explanation of the hobbit: the disease causes decreased stature and growth, but also allows for normal intelligence to develop.

“Hobbits” May Have Been Genetic Mutants
National Geographic News, 03 January 2008
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Getting into the mind of the Indonesian hobbit

Earlier this year, a study by Dean Falk hoped to put to rest the homo floresiensis controversy by comparing casts of the homo floresiensis brain with that of other microcephalic humans. The results of the study showed that there were marked differences between the LB1 brain and the brain of the microcephalic human, inferring in turn that the hobbit was really something else.

While the verdict on the Hobbit is still up in the air, we take a segue and look at the method used for this study and at Ralph Holloway, the scientist who pioneered the method of making endocasts.
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Newsweek on the Hobbit

Newsweek magazine features an interview with Matthew Tocheri, one of the investigators behind the Hobbit wrist study.

20 September 2007 (Newsweek) – Newsweek magazine features an interview with Matthew Tocheri, one of the investigators behind the Hobbit wrist study.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’
A new study of a skeleton of a member of a race of three-foot-tall ‘hobbits’ who lived 12,000 years ago in Indonesia shows that they were a species of human—and that the evolutionary path to Homo sapiens has been tortuous indeed.
by Jessica Bennett

It was an astonishing discovery: the skeletal remains of a new human species that lived for eons on a remote island while man colonized the rest of the planet. Back when it was first discovered in 2003, on the tiny Indonesian island of Flores, the three-foot-tall adult female skeleton was dubbed “the hobbit,” because she—and the 11 other skeletal remains that were found like her—bore more of a resemblance to the Tolkien fantasy characters than to modern humans. The hobbit’s discovery presented evidence that as recently as 12,000 years ago another species of human may have roamed the earth and, more startling, that our evolutionary history was a lot more complex than previously thought. Many scientists were more skeptical—the bones, they said, most likely belonged to a diminutive human with physical defects: a freak.

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