An exciting paper was published last week in Nature and received a fair bit of media coverage: dating from the Madjedbebe site in Northern Territories of Australia have yielded the earliest human occupation dates of 65,000 years, setting a new minimum age of human migration. The previous conventional earliest occupation date was about 47,000 years ago – so this new date is a pretty big deal. The finds have a bigger implication for human occupation in Southeast Asia: so far the oldest modern human remains found in SEA are from Tham Pa Ling in Laos, which are approximately 60,000 years old. This new find from Australia suggests that there may be older remains yet to be found in SEA.
The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.
Source: Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago : Nature : Nature Research
The Guardian, 05 June 2017:
One of Australia’s most treasured second world war warships has been illegally salvaged for metal, devastating the war grave of more than 300 sailors, maritime archaeologists say.
An Australian-Indonesian expedition conducted a dive on the wreck of HMAS Perth, which sank in 1942 following a fierce battle against the Japanese navy off the north-west tip of Java.
Kevin Sumption, the director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, said: “It is with profound regret we advise that our joint maritime archaeologist diving team has discovered sections of the Perth missing. Interim reports indicate only approximately 40% of the vessel remaining.
Source: Sunken Australian warship HMAS Perth ransacked by illegal scavengers | Australia news | The Guardian
Job opportunity at the University of Papua New Guinea. Closing date is 23 June 2017
As part of the new directional change in the strand and the School, we seek to appoint a Professor in Anthropology/Sociology/Archaeology that is well placed to lead the team of academics to implement and achieve the designed outcomes of the restructure of the University. The Professor will provide both academic and administrative leadership in the school. The appointee is expected to provide strong supervisory ability, planning, organizing, influencing and collaborating with staff and stakeholders with the desire to improve standards in the school and university. The professor will be committed to the vision of the school and the university and have demonstrated ability to motivate both senior and junior academics to achieve the desired outcomes of the school and the university.
The Professor is expected to exercise special responsibility in providing scholarly and general leadership in fostering excellence in research, teaching, professional activities and policy development in the academic discipline within the school and /or other comparable organizational unit, within the university and within the community
Source: Professor in Anthropology/Sociology/Archaeology – The University Of Papua New Guinea – jobs.ac.uk
Faculty position available in Shanghai Normal University, open to archaeological focuses on Chinas relations with Southeast Asia. Applications close on July 12, 2017
Faculty Position – Relationships Between China and its Neighbouring Countries
The Guangqi Centre for International Scholars is a research institute affiliated with Shanghai Normal University, focusing on the application of academic research on reality. It is built to facilitate communication between Western cultures and Eastern cultures and to attract talented scholars to exchange ideas freely. The central aim is to become a well-known research institute soon.
The Guangqi Centre for International Scholars seeks a full-time scholar focused on relationships between China and its neighbouring countries: Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia. This is a full-time academic position with a three-year renewable contract.
This position is open to scholars of all thematic interests: history, politics, archaeology, linguistics, literature, religion, anthropology, art, international relations, and other related fields.
The recruited scholars will be directly admitted by the school. They will also be able to undertake postdoctoral research on world history, Chinese history, Chinese language and literature, and more, per their interest.
Source: Faculty Position – Relationships Between China and its Neighbouring Countries – Shanghai Normal University – jobs.ac.uk
New paper in PNAS about the earliest domestication of rice in China.
Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene
Phytolith remains of rice (Oryza sativa L.) recovered from the Shangshan site in the Lower Yangtze of China have previously been recognized as the earliest examples of rice cultivation. However, because of the poor preservation of macroplant fossils, many radiocarbon dates were derived from undifferentiated organic materials in pottery sherds. These materials remain a source of debate because of potential contamination by old carbon. Direct dating of the rice remains might serve to clarify their age. Here, we first validate the reliability of phytolith dating in the study region through a comparison with dates obtained from other material from the same layer or context. Our phytolith data indicate that rice remains retrieved from early stages of the Shangshan and Hehuashan sites have ages of approximately 9,400 and 9,000 calibrated years before the present, respectively. The morphology of rice bulliform phytoliths indicates they are closer to modern domesticated species than to wild species, suggesting that rice domestication may have begun at Shangshan during the beginning of the Holocene.
Source: Dating rice remains through phytolith carbon-14 study reveals domestication at the beginning of the Holocene
See also: Radiocarbon dating of phytolith traces rice domestication to 10,000 years ago (CHINESE ACADEMY OF SCIENCES HEADQUARTERS, 02 June 2017)
Of possible interest to some readers, a postdoc position on Chinese ceramics at Durham University
Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Archaeology of Early Chinese Trade Ceramics in the Western Indian Ocean
The purpose of this 23-month fixed term full-time PDRA post is to work alongside the Head of the Department of Archaeology (Prof. Robin Skeates), our Senior Lecturer/Associate Lecturer (Dr. Derek Kennet) and other colleagues in Durham’s Department of Archaeology in developing, undertaking and publishing collaborative research with the Palace Museum in Beijing on the archaeology of early Chinese trade ceramics. Within the contemporary context of the Chinese Belt and Road initiative, a particular focus will be on their classification, their production at kiln sites in China, their overland trade in Iran, and their maritime trade in the western Indian Ocean from the 8th to the 19th centuries.
Source: Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Archaeology of Early Chinese Trade Ceramics in the Western Indian Ocean at Durham University
University of California, San Diego, 23 May 2017: Underwater archaeology of a more recent time. Project Recover aims to locate the resting places of Americans missing in action in World War II. Their most recent discovery are two B-25 bombers off Papua New Guinea.
Source: Two missing World War II B-25 bombers documented by Project Recover off Papua New Guinea | EurekAlert! Science News
The Maritime Silk Route would naturally include many Southeast Asian stops.
UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes
There has been much discussion about possible strategies for the nominations on the UNESCO World Heritage List of the impact of maritime trade on the cultures and civilizations between East and West often referred to as the ‘Maritime Silk Routes’. The aim of this UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes, which will be held on 30-31 May 2017 in London, is to bring together scholars who have worked on the history, archaeology, and heritage of maritime interactions across this vast area in order to discuss the strategy for further research, as well as the development of a platform to enter into a possible dialogue with the States Parties of the World Heritage Convention along the Maritime Silk Routes.
Source: UNESCO World Heritage Centre – UNESCO Expert Meeting for the World Heritage Nomination Process of the Maritime Silk Routes
The discovery of archaeological remains in Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, in northwestern Australia goes back to 50,000 years and shows exploitation of marine resources.
Archaeological deposits from Boodie Cave on Barrow Island, northwest Australia, reveal some of the oldest evidence for Aboriginal occupation of Australia, as well as illustrating the early use of marine resources by modern peoples outside of Africa. Barrow Island is a large (202 km2) limestone continental island located on the North-West Shelf of Australia, optimally located to sample past use of both the Pleistocene coastline and extensive arid coastal plains. An interdisciplinary team forming the Barrow Island Archaeology Project (BIAP) has addressed questions focusing on the antiquity of occupation of coastal deserts by hunter-gatherers; the use and distribution of marine resources from the coast to the interior; and the productivity of the marine zone with changing sea levels. Boodie Cave is the largest of 20 stratified deposits identified on Barrow Island with 20 m3 of cultural deposits excavated between 2013 and 2015. In this first major synthesis we focus on the dating and sedimentology of Boodie Cave to establish the framework for ongoing analysis of cultural materials. We present new data on these cultural assemblages – including charcoal, faunal remains and lithics – integrated with micromorphology, sedimentary history and dating by four independent laboratories. First occupation occurs between 51.1 and 46.2 ka, overlapping with the earliest dates for occupation of Australia. Marine resources are incorporated into dietary assemblages by 42.5 ka and continue to be transported to the cave through all periods of occupation, despite fluctuating sea levels and dramatic extensions of the coastal plain. The changing quantities of marine fauna through time reflect the varying distance of the cave from the contemporaneous shoreline. The dietary breadth of both arid zone terrestrial fauna and marine species increases after the Last Glacial Maximum and significantly so by the mid-Holocene. The cave is abandoned by 6.8 ka when the island becomes increasingly distant from the mainland coast.
Source: Early human occupation of a maritime desert, Barrow Island, North-West Australia
Earliest evidence of Aboriginal occupation of Australian coast discovered (The Guardian, 19 May 2017)
Remote cave reveals earliest Australians lived around 50,000 years ago (University of Queensland, 19 May 2017)
App launched in conjunction with the reopening of the National Museum in Colombo. It’s on Google Play here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.arimaclanka.icta.museum&hl=en
The solution developed for the Sri Lanka Museums has the following functionalities:
o Multi-lingual content base (Sinhala, English, Tamil) – Records and integrates the voice description of artifacts, as well as text contents of various museums in Sri Lanka with the native mobile applications. Recorded voice descriptions are played once the user enters the item code or scans the QR maker.
o Geo Location Based Augmented Reality – a module to locate the galleries based on the geo location of the visitor.
o Indoor Positioning System – Marker based (Fiducial) indoor positioning system in order that users may know the exact location they are at, thus being able to route their location accordingly.
o Social Media – Social media is integrated with the applications in order that visitors may share their experience.
Source: ICTA & National Museum launch Sri Lanka museums mobile app – Lanka Business Online