[Paper] The spatio-temporal distribution of archaeological and faunal finds at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia) in light of the revised chronology for Homo floresiensis

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New Open Access paper in the Journal of Human Evolution examines the distribution stone artefacts and faunal remains of Liang Bua over 190,000 years. Changes in the assemblage suggest that modern humans arrived to Liang Bua around 46,000 years ago.

Liang Bua, the type site of Homo floresiensis, is a limestone cave on the Indonesian island of Flores with sedimentary deposits currently known to range in age from about 190 thousand years (ka) ago to the present. Recent revision of the stratigraphy and chronology of this depositional sequence suggests that skeletal remains of H. floresiensis are between ∼100 and 60 ka old, while cultural evidence of this taxon occurs until ∼50 ka ago. Here we examine the compositions of the faunal communities and stone artifacts, by broad taxonomic groups and raw materials, throughout the ∼190 ka time interval preserved in the sequence. Major shifts are observed in both the faunal and stone artifact assemblages that reflect marked changes in paleoecology and hominin behavior, respectively. Our results suggest that H. floresiensis and Stegodon florensis insularis, along with giant marabou stork (Leptoptilos robustus) and vulture (Trigonoceps sp.), were likely extinct by ∼50 ka ago. Moreover, an abrupt and statistically significant shift in raw material preference due to an increased use of chert occurs ∼46 thousand calibrated radiocarbon (14C) years before present (ka cal. BP), a pattern that continues through the subsequent stratigraphic sequence. If an increased preference for chert does, in fact, characterize Homo sapiens assemblages at Liang Bua, as previous studies have suggested (e.g., Moore et al., 2009), then the shift observed here suggests that modern humans arrived on Flores by ∼46 ka cal. BP, which would be the earliest cultural evidence of modern humans in Indonesia.

Source: The spatio-temporal distribution of archaeological and faunal finds at Liang Bua (Flores, Indonesia) in light of the revised chronology for Homo floresiensis – ScienceDirect

[Paper] New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia

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First direct dates of dingo bones from a site in Western Australia. Dingoes are one of the few mammals that crossed water (most likely accompanying humans) before European arrival. The dates and location of the site suggest that dingoes spread throughout the continent relatively quickly after their introduction.

New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia
Balme et al.
Scientific Reports
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28324-x

The dingo is the only placental land mammal aside from murids and bats to have made the water crossings to reach Australia prior to European arrival. It is thought that they arrived as a commensal animal with people, some time in the mid Holocene. However, the timing of their arrival is still a subject of major debate with published age estimates varying widely. This is largely because the age estimates for dingo arrival are based on archaeological deposit dates and genetic divergence estimates, rather than on the dingo bones themselves. Currently, estimates vary from between 5000–4000 years ago, for finds from archaeological contexts, and as much as 18,000 based on DNA age estimates. The timing of dingo arrival is important as post arrival they transformed Indigenous societies across mainland Australia and have been implicated in the extinction of a number of animals including the Tasmanian tiger. Here we present the results of direct dating of dingo bones from their oldest known archaeological context, Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain. These dates demonstrate that dingoes were in southern Australia by between 3348 and 3081 years ago. We suggest that following their introduction the dingo may have spread extremely rapidly throughout mainland Australia.

Source: New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia | Nature Scientific Reports

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Pzaf 2018 – Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum

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Just passing on this information about the Postgraduate ZooArchaeology Forum (PZAF) which will take place between the 27th and 29th June 2018 in Palermo (Sicily, Italy). Abstracts from any field of zooarchaeology will be considered, and can be submitted through the PZAF 2018 website https://www.pzaf.org/. The deadline for abstract submission is on 31st March 2018. For any information on the conference, please visit https://www.pzaf.org/ or email pzaf2018@gmail.com. Updates and useful information can also be found on the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pzaf2018/.

PZAF is an annual conference organised by and for postgraduate students and early-career professionals in the field of zooarchaeology.

Source: Pzaf 2018 – Postgraduate Zooarchaeology Forum

New Paper: Palaeoecological Interactions and Owl Roosting at Alor Island, Eastern Indonesia

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We report on tetrapod (Reptilia, Amphibia, Mammalia, Aves) vertebrates recovered during excavations at Tron Bon Lei rockshelter on the south coast of Alor Island, eastern Indonesia. These include both archaeological specimens recovered from a 1 m² test pit dating from ∼21 kya cal BP to the late Holocene, and a modern eastern barn owl deposit recovered nearby. To discern between the depositional processes that accumulated the small numbers of micro- and macrovertebrate remains from the archaeological deposits, the taphonomic signature of the natural assemblage was quantified and compared to the archaeological record. The taphonomic data indicates that the tetrapod archaeofaunal remains are a combination of barn owl predation of microfauna and human predation of larger fauna. This approach provides new information on human-tetrapod interactions on Alor in Wallacea during the late Quaternary, including an apparent increase in cave site use and hunting intensity during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, sea turtle butchery and probable transport, and extinctions of previously unknown giant to large rat species.

Source: Human Palaeoecological Interactions and Owl Roosting at Tron Bon Lei, Alor Island, Eastern Indonesia: The Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology: Vol 0, No 0

Largest-ever rat fossils discovered in East Timor

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Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Very pleased to see my former colleagues at the ANU featured in this news – the discovery of the largest rat fossils ever, from East Timor.

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

Dr Julien Louys holding up the jawbone fossil of a giant rat found in East Timor, with a modern rat for comparison. Source: ANU 20151106

The largest to have existed – giant rat fossils
ANU, 06 November 2015

Dog-Size Rats Once Lived Alongside Humans
LiveScience, 06 November 2015

Archaeologists with The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered fossils of seven giant rat species on East Timor, with the largest up to 10 times the size of modern rats.

Dr Julien Louys of the ANU School of Culture, History and Language, who is helping lead the project said these are the largest known rats to have ever existed.

“They are what you would call mega-fauna. The biggest one is about five kilos, the size of a small dog,” Dr Louys said.

“Just to put that in perspective, a large modern rat would be about half a kilo.”

The work is part of the From Sunda to Sahul project which is looking at the earliest human movement through Southeast Asia. Researchers are now trying to work out exactly what caused the rats to die out.

Full story here and here.

Earl of Cranbrook delivers lecture on Borneo zooarchaeology at UBD

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Zoologist and environmental biologist the Earl of Cranbrook recently delivered a lecture to students at Universiti Brunei Darussalam. Lord Cranbrook was also on Borneo to present on the same topic at the recent Borneo archaeology seminar in Miri.

UBD Students Gain Insight On Zooarchaeology In Borneo
BruDirect.com, 03 November 2010
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Fossil finds reveal range of pleistocene wildlife

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Over 500 fossils have been found at the Ma Tuyen Cave in Lao Cai province of Vietnam, representing at least 12 animal species including bears, elephants, horses and rhinos.

10,000 year old elephant teeth discovered in Lao Cai
Saigon Giai Phong, 12 June 2010

Twelve animal species found in Lao Cai cave [Link no longer available]
Viet Nam News, 17 June 2010
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Sharing Our Archaeological Heritage – Day 2

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The second and last of the paper presentations went by today with an near-marathon run of five sessions. By the end of the day I was having a little trouble concentrating already – glad that tomorrow will see a change of pace as we head out for a tour of the archaeological site of Johor!

Today we heard two calls for collaboration; Paul Tacon announced his Eagleandowl network for research themes in human evolution, creativity and cultural heritage research in the Australasian region. And from Vietnam, archaeologist Vu The Long called for the setting up of a network for sharing zooarchaeological information. To back up his appeal, he gave the analogy of communal water pots that are placed outside homes in Myanmar – water is shared and given to anyone who wants a drink. In the same way, he called for a similar spirit in the sharing of information and collaboration.

No papers on rock art presented in this conference – although I learnt that some rock art sites in Sulawesi have been quarried to destuction, much to my dismay. On the brght side, after speaking to archaeologists from Thailand and Vietnam I’ve begun to hear about more sites in the region. There’s certainly a lot more out there that needs to be properly documented!

No Wednesday Rojak for today – back next week!