Who let the dogs out, of Southeast Asia?

A new paper published in Cell Research analyses the genomes of dogs from around the world and finds that the dogs tested from Southeast Asian have higher genetic diversity, suggesting that dogs were domesticated in this region around 33,000 years ago.


DNA Study Suggests Dogs Originated in South East Asia
Archaeology, 17 December 2015

Out of southern East Asia: the natural history of domestic dogs across the world
Cell Research, doi: 10.1038/cr.2015.147

The origin and evolution of the domestic dog remains a controversial question for the scientific community, with basic aspects such as the place and date of origin, and the number of times dogs were domesticated, open to dispute. Using whole genome sequences from a total of 58 canids (12 gray wolves, 27 primitive dogs from Asia and Africa, and a collection of 19 diverse breeds from across the world), we find that dogs from southern East Asia have significantly higher genetic diversity compared to other populations, and are the most basal group relating to gray wolves, indicating an ancient origin of domestic dogs in southern East Asia 33 000 years ago. Around 15 000 years ago, a subset of ancestral dogs started migrating to the Middle East, Africa and Europe, arriving in Europe at about 10 000 years ago. One of the out of Asia lineages also migrated back to the east, creating a series of admixed populations with the endemic Asian lineages in northern China before migrating to the New World. For the first time, our study unravels an extraordinary journey that the domestic dog has traveled on earth.

Full paper here. (Open Access)

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

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.

Special Antiquity feature on Angkor Wat

The latest issue of Antiquity has a special section featuring the latest research on Angkor Wat, which is written by a number of my colleagues and friends. Among the papers discussed are the discovery of towers and previously unknown features within Angkor Wat, the results of the lidar scan in the greater Angkor region, and the fortification walls of Angkor Wat. Here are the links to the journal articles – the first paper is open access, but the rest unfortunately aren’t.


Angkor Wat: an introduction
Fletcher et al, doi:10.15184/aqy.2015.178

The landscape of Angkor Wat redefined
Evans and Fletcher, doi:10.15184/aqy.2015.157

The buried ‘towers’ of Angkor Wat
Sonnemann et al, doi: 10.15184/aqy.2015.179

Residential patterning at Angkor Wat
Stark et al, doi: 10.15184/aqy.2015.159

The fortification of Angkor Wat
Brotherson, doi: 10.15184/aqy.2015.140

Here are links to the news coverage so far:

New discoveries redefine Angkor Wat’s history
University of Sydney, 09 December 2015

Angkor Wat Yields Astounding Buried Towers & Spiral Structure
LiveScience, 09 December 2015

Angkor Wat Larger, More Complex Than Thought
Cambodia Daily, 10 December 2015

The temple of Angkor Wat was bounded by a ‘mysterious structure’ 1.5 km long
Business Insider, 10 December 2015

Discoveries reveal lost Angkor history
Phnom Penh Post, 11 December 2015

Cambodia: Huge structure discovered at Angkor Wat shows religious monument is more complex than thought
International Business Times, 11 December 2015

Archaeology: Angkor Wat in Cambodia Was Larger and Different Than Thought
Natural World News, 11 December 2015

A lot more than meets the eye
The Hindu, 11 December 2015

New Findings Might Reveal the People of Angkor Wat’s “Last Stand”
Gizmodo, 12 December 2015

Two new papers in Antiquity

Reader may be interested in two papers related to Southeast Asian Archaeology in the latest issue of Antiquity.

Rainfall and circular moated sites in north-east Thailand
Glen Scott and Dougald O’Reilly
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2015.130

The existence of moated mounds in the archaeological record of north-east Thailand has long been known, the majority constructed during the earlier first millennium AD. Despite considerable research, the purpose of the substantial and sometimes multiple moats surrounding raised occupation mounds has remained a mystery. Combining locational, hydrological and rainfall data with the archaeological evidence, this study of the moated mounds of the Khorat Plateau seeks to resolve the question through statistical analysis. The results suggest that water storage may have been the primary purpose of the moats, enabling communities to survive dry seasons and droughts.

Debating a great site: Ban Non Wat and the wider prehistory of Southeast Asia
C.F.W. Higham
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2015.113

Almost half a century has elapsed since the first area excavation of a prehistoric site in north-east Thailand at Non Nok Tha (Bayard & Solheim 2010) (Figure 1). A long and still unresolved debate has ensued, centred on the chronology of the establishment of rice farming and bronze casting, that has dovetailed with further controversies on the pace and nature of social change. Results obtained during the past 20 years of fieldwork focused on the upper Mun Valley of north-east Thailand, together with a new series of AMS radiocarbon determinations from key sites, have thrown into sharp relief contrasting interpretations of two issues: one centres on the timing and origin of the Neolithic settlement; the other on the date and impact of copper-base metallurgy. A consensus through debate would bring us to a tipping point that would see Southeast Asian prehistory turn to more interesting issues of cultural change.

Two new articles on Thailand

Two recent articles of note, from Prof. Charles Higham.

1. A New Chronology for the Bronze Age of Northeastern Thailand and Its Implications for Southeast Asian Prehistory
Charles F. W. Higham, Katerina Douka, Thomas F. G. Higham

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0137542

This article presents and discusses new radiocarbon chronologies for the sites of Ban Chiang, Ban Na Di, Ban Lum Khao and Non Nok Tha.

2. From site formation to social structure in prehistoric Thailand
Charles F. W. Higham

Journal of Field Archaeology
Volume: 40, Issue: 4, Aug 2015, pp. 383 – 396

This article presents new information on the development of residential burial during the later Iron Age, compared with the use of dedicated cemeteries during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

First discovery of archaic Homo from Taiwan

A fossil jawbone recovered from the seabed near Taiwan represents the first ancient hominid find from the region; dating is imprecise – anywhere from 10 to 190ka – but the form is more reminiscent of archaic hominids rather than recent ones. If so, it lends weight to the theory that there were multiple groups of ancient hominids that existed outside of Africa.

Jawbone of Penghu 1. Source: Ancient Origins, 20150128
Jawbone of Penghu 1. Source: Ancient Origins, 20150128

The first archaic Homo from Taiwan
Nature Communications, 27 January 2015

Ancient Human Fossil Could Be New Primitive Species
Live Science, 27 January 2015

Taiwan Jaw Bone Connected to the Origins of Humanity, May Reveal Entirely New Prehistoric Species
Ancient Origins, 28 January 2015

Recent studies of an increasing number of hominin fossils highlight regional and chronological diversities of archaic Homo in the Pleistocene of eastern Asia. However, such a realization is still based on limited geographical occurrences mainly from Indonesia, China and Russian Altai. Here we describe a newly discovered archaic Homo mandible from Taiwan (Penghu 1), which further increases the diversity of Pleistocene Asian hominins. Penghu 1 revealed an unexpectedly late survival (younger than 450 but most likely 190–10 thousand years ago) of robust, apparently primitive dentognathic morphology in the periphery of the continent, which is unknown among the penecontemporaneous fossil records from other regions of Asia except for the mid-Middle Pleistocene Homo from Hexian, Eastern China. Such patterns of geographic trait distribution cannot be simply explained by clinal geographic variation of Homo erectus between northern China and Java, and suggests survival of multiple evolutionary lineages among archaic hominins before the arrival of modern humans in the region.

Read the full paper here.

New study suggests Hobbit was a person with Down syndrome

A new study in PNAS suggests that Homo floresiensis may not be a new species, but the skeletal features resemble a normal human with Down syndrome. This one is bound to be controversial for sure!


Evolved developmental homeostasis disturbed in LB1 from Flores, Indonesia, denotes Down syndrome and not diagnostic traits of the invalid species Homo floresiensis
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 04 August 2014
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1407382111

The “hobbit” human not a separate species, say scientists
Popular Archaeology, 04 August 2014

Flores bones show features of Down syndrome, not a new ‘Hobbit’ human
Science Daily, 04 August 2014

‘Hobbit’ had Down syndrome
The Australian, 05 August 2014

Did the ‘Hobbit’ have Down syndrome?
ABC Science, 05 August 2014
Continue reading “New study suggests Hobbit was a person with Down syndrome”

Back issues of Asian Perspectives available online

From a colleague, Professor Miriam Stark:


Dear Colleagues,

We are working to make our East and Southeast Asian archaeological publications more accessible to colleagues in regions that lack subscriptions to electronic journals. To that end, the University of Hawai’i Press has worked with us to make digital files available of all available Asian Perspectives articles from 1957 to 2008.

Please access individual journal issues at this URL (be sure to click on the issue to open up the list of articles):


We are also developing an open-access source for early 20th century western scholarship on the art and archaeology of Southeast Asia, and have begun with sources on Indochina. The currently available resources trend heavily toward Aymonier, Marchal, Lunet de la Jonquiere, and Parmentier, but we intend to expand the list in the next 18 months to include many other publications whose copyright has now expired:


New hobbit study supports island dwarfism

A new study based on CT scans of the hobbit skulls suggest that homo erectus may possibly have been an ancestor to homo floresiensis, and supports the theory that the reduction in size may have come about due to island dwarfism.

Homo floresiensis, The Conversation 20130211
Homo floresiensis, The Conversation 20130211

Brain size of Homo floresiensis and its evolutionary implications
Daisuke Kubo, Reiko T. Kono and Yousuke Kaifu
Proc. R. Soc. B 2013 280, 20130338, published 17 April 2013
doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.0338

The Real ‘Hobbit’ Had Larger Brain Than Thought
LiveScience, 16 April 2013

Hobbit Humans Had Big Brains
Discovery News, 16 April 2013

Researchers find ‘hobbit human’ had an orange-sized brain – and may have evolved from the first human species to walk fully upright
Daily Mail, 16 April 2013

Study backs ‘hobbit’ island dwarfism theory
BBC News, 17 April 2013

Brain size points to origins of ‘hobbit’
ABC Science, 17 April 2013

The origin of “hobbits” is revealed: study
The Korea Herald, 17 April 2013

Researchers back claim that Flores ‘hobbits’ grew smaller as they evolved
AFP, 17 April 2013

Hobbit’s Brain Size Holds Clues About Its Ancestor
National Geographic News, 18 April 2013
Continue reading “New hobbit study supports island dwarfism”

New volume of BIPPA out

Volume 31 of the Bulletin of the Indo-Pacific Prehistory Association is out now, online! Check it out here.

Bulletin of the Indo-Pacfic Prehistory Association, vol. 31
Bulletin of the Indo-Pacfic Prehistory Association, vol. 31

As a side note, I do have an article published in this edition, based on my MA work on the Gua Tambun rock art site. Check it out here.