Ancient skeletons discovered in Vietnam cave

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Source: VNE, 20180919

via VNE and other sources, 19 September 2018: Vietnamese arhaeologists announce the discovery of Neolithic human remains in a volcanic cave in Dak Nong Province.

Source: VNE, 20180919

Source: VNE, 20180919

The remains of 10 Neolithic humans have been found along with thousands of artifacts in the most bountiful archeological site in the region.

Scientists announced on Tuesday the results of their excavation in the Krong No volcanic cave in Dak Nong Province, in the southwest of the Central Highlands at the tail end of the Truong Son mountain chain.

Krong No is a volcanic cave system that has made headlines for its impressive scale and length. The 25-kilometer cave, the longest in Southeast Asia, starts at the Choar volcanic crater and stretches along the Serepok River, ending at Dray Sap waterfall.

Source: Ancient skeletons discovered in Vietnam cave – VnExpress International

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[Paper] Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia

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A new paper in Science examining the genomes of modern pygmies in the island of Flores found similarities with Neanderthal and Denisovan  sequences, but nothing else unexpected, which would suggest that the modern pygmies have no genetic link with the island’s most famous pygmy, Homo floresiensis.

Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia
Tucci et al.
Science, doi: 10.1126/science.aar8486

Flores Island, Indonesia, was inhabited by the small-bodied hominin species Homo floresiensis, which has an unknown evolutionary relationship to modern humans. This island is also home to an extant human pygmy population. Here we describe genome-scale single-nucleotide polymorphism data and whole-genome sequences from a contemporary human pygmy population living on Flores near the cave where H. floresiensis was found. The genomes of Flores pygmies reveal a complex history of admixture with Denisovans and Neanderthals but no evidence for gene flow with other archaic hominins. Modern individuals bear the signatures of recent positive selection encompassing the FADS (fatty acid desaturase) gene cluster, likely related to diet, and polygenic selection acting on standing variation that contributed to their short-stature phenotype. Thus, multiple independent instances of hominin insular dwarfism occurred on Flores.

Source: Evolutionary history and adaptation of a human pygmy population of Flores Island, Indonesia | Science, 03 August 2018

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No volcanic winter in East Africa from ancient Toba eruption: The supereruption 74,000 years ago did not trigger major environmental disruption that caused human populations in East Africa to decline, say geoscientists.

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via Science Daily, 06 Feb 2018: The Toba supereruption on the island of Sumatra about 74,000 years ago did not cause a six-year-long ‘volcanic winter’ in East Africa and thereby cause the human population in the region to plummet, according to new research based on an analysis of ancient plant remains from lake cores. The new findings disagree with the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, which says the eruption and its aftermath caused drastic, multi-year cooling and severe ecological disruption in East Africa.

The Toba supereruption on the island of Sumatra about 74,000 years ago did not cause a six-year-long ‘volcanic winter’ in East Africa and thereby cause the human population in the region to plummet, according to new research based on an analysis of ancient plant remains from lake cores. The new findings disagree with the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, which says the eruption and its aftermath caused drastic, multi-year cooling and severe ecological disruption in East Africa.

Source: No volcanic winter in East Africa from ancient Toba eruption: The supereruption 74,000 years ago did not trigger major environmental disruption that caused human populations in East Africa to decline, say geoscientists.

Humans occupied northern Australia 65,000 years ago: What does this mean for SEA?

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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

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[Paper] What plants might potentially have been used in the forests of prehistoric Southeast Asia?

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A new paper by Xhauflair et al. examines plant exploitation in Palawan, Philippins today and its potential for understanding plant exploitation in prehistory.

Pleistocene and Holocene lithic assemblages found in Southeast Asia are characterised by simple production techniques and a paucity of formal stone tools. This situation led some scholars to hypothesise that this situation reflected an adaptation of prehistoric human groups to the rainforest and that these simple stone tools had been mainly used to manufacture more complex implements made of bamboo. Microscopic use traces observed on stone tools could support this hypothesis since many result from plant processing. However, it remains unclear whether these traces were produced by working bamboo or other plants, due to the lack of a suitable use-wear reference collection. To be able to clearly discriminate the use-wear resulting from bamboo processing, such a collection needs to encompass use traces resulting not only from bamboo processing but also from working various other plants, which might potentially have been used by prehistoric groups. We present here the results of a three month field work among Pala’wan communities aiming to know what plants from the forests of Palawan, Philippines are used nowadays, are therefore useful to humans in general and might have been used during the past as well. We recorded the use of 95 different plant species belonging to at least 34 different families. Archaeobotanical studies confirm that some of those plants were available and used by humans in the past while others would have been extant at least in forest refugia, even during glacial periods. Those plants are processed by the Pala’wan at all life stages from seed to dead trees and the parts involved are very diverse. While the most frequent type of use that we witnessed was technological in nature (67 plant species), plants are also used for alimentary, medicinal, ornamental, and sanitary purposes, and even for producing poison. The observations presented here can serve as a basis for use-wear analysts to design experiments in relation to plant exploitation by humans during the past, and to enlarge reference collections.

Source: What plants might potentially have been used in the forests of prehistoric Southeast Asia? An insight from the resources used nowadays by local communities in the forested highlands of Palawan Island

[Book] New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory (Terra Australis 45)

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A new book from ANU Press – the ebook is free!

‘This volume brings together a diversity of international scholars, unified in the theme of expanding scientific knowledge about humanity’s past in the Asia-Pacific region. The contents in total encompass a deep time range, concerning the origins and dispersals of anatomically modern humans, the lifestyles of Pleistocene and early Holocene Palaeolithic hunter-gatherers, the emergence of Neolithic farming communities, and the development of Iron Age societies.

Source: New Perspectives in Southeast Asian and Pacific Prehistory (Terra Australis 45) | ANU Press

Facial reconstruction of a woman from Pleistocene Thailand

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A new paper from Antiquity presents a facial reconstruction of a woman found in Tham Lod, a Pleistocene site in northern Thailand.

https://doi.org/10.15184/aqy.2017.18

Creating a facial appearance for individuals from the distant past is often highly problematic, even when verified methods are used. This is especially so in the case of non-European individuals, as the reference populations used to estimate the face tend to be heavily biased towards the average facial variation of recent people of European descent. To evaluate the problem, a facial approximation of a young woman from the Late Pleistocene rockshelter of Tham Lod in north-western Thailand was compared against the average facial variation of datasets from recent populations. The analysis indicated that the Tham Lod facial approximation was neither overtly recent in facial morphology, nor overtly European. The case is of particular interest as the Tham Lod individual probably belonged to a population ancestral to extant Australo-Melanesian peoples.

Source: A Late Pleistocene woman from Tham Lod, Thailand: the influence of today on a face from the past | Antiquity | Cambridge Core

See also: Face of Stone Age woman from Thailand’s northern highlands revealed