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
via Vietnam Net, 13 July 2018:
The Vuon Chuoi archaeological site, though the most important and largest relic complex of the pre-Dong Son and Dong Son Cultures (700 BC – AD 100) in Vietnamese history, has long been on the brink of being wiped out.
Source: Hanoi’s first human settlement under threat | Vietnam Net
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.
via Sinar Harian, 26 October 2017: (article is in Bahasa Malaysia)
SEBUT sahaja Gua Niah, Sarawak, dan Gua Bewah, Terengganu sudah pasti ramai yang sudah mengenali khazanah negara itu berbanding Gua Pelangi yang terletak di Negeri Sembilan.
Source: Gua Pelangi semarak sejarah Negeri Sembilan – Rencana – Sinar Harian
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
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
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
A new paper from Antiquity presents a facial reconstruction of a woman found in Tham Lod, a Pleistocene site in northern Thailand.
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
From the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a new paper highlights discoveries excavated in Sulawesi from 30,000 years ago, showing that humans were engaged in making symbolic artefacts in the form of jewelry, portable art and used ochre (probably for creating rock art which we already know is very old in Sulawesi). The finds suggest a cultural sophistication that we rarely see this early in the archaeological record.
Wallacea, the zone of oceanic islands separating the continental regions of Southeast Asia and Australia, has yielded sparse evidence for the symbolic culture of early modern humans. Here we report evidence for symbolic activity 30,000–22,000 y ago at Leang Bulu Bettue, a cave and rock-shelter site on the Wallacean island of Sulawesi. We describe hitherto undocumented practices of personal ornamentation and portable art, alongside evidence for pigment processing and use in deposits that are the same age as dated rock art in the surrounding karst region. Previously, assemblages of multiple and diverse types of Pleistocene “symbolic” artifacts were entirely unknown from this region. The Leang Bulu Bettue assemblage provides insight into the complexity and diversification of modern human culture during a key period in the global dispersal of our species. It also shows that early inhabitants of Sulawesi fashioned ornaments from body parts of endemic animals, suggesting modern humans integrated exotic faunas and other novel resources into their symbolic world as they colonized the biogeographically unique regions southeast of continental Eurasia.
Source: Early human symbolic behavior in the Late Pleistocene of Wallacea
Other news reports listed below:
Researchers uncover prehistoric art and ornaments from Indonesian ‘Ice Age’
Prehistoric jewellery found in Indonesian cave challenges view early humans less advanced
Ice age art in Indonesia reveals how spiritual life transformed en route to Australia
In Ice Age Indonesia, People Were Making Jewelry and Art
Researchers uncover prehistoric art and ornaments from Indonesian ‘Ice Age’