via Channel NewsAsia, 23 April 2018:
SYDNEY: Researchers Monday (Apr 23) voiced renewed hope of discovering why Australia’s first submarine sank, after a detailed underwater survey of the long-lost wreck off Papua New Guinea led by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. HMAS AE1, the first of two E Class submarines built for the Royal Australian Navy, vanished on Sep 14, 1914 near the Duke of York Islands. The disappearance of the sub, carrying 35 crew members from Australia, Britain and New Zealand, was the nation’s most enduring military mystery until the wreck was found in December following 12 previous expeditions. The new survey, conducted earlier this month with Allen’s research vessel the R/V Petrel, used a remotely-operated vehicle to inspect the sub and collect more than 8,500 high-resolution photos and several hours of video footage. James Hunter of the Australian National Maritime Museum, an archeological observer to the US-Australia expedition, said the fresh imagery should help unravel the mystery of what happened to AE1. “We’re not there yet, we’re still looking through all the footage … it’s going to give us the detail that we need that we didn’t have before,” he told AFP. He said the researchers, who also came from the Royal Australian Navy, Curtin University, the Western Australian Museum and the Submarine Institute of Australia, previously only had low-resolution overhead shots of the wreck. “We’re going to be looking for all sorts of clues. Even the seemingly most innocuous clues may actually help us move forward and have a better understanding of what happened to the submarine,” he added. So far, the images that have been reviewed reveal that the sub’s stern torpedo tube cap was open, although it is not known why, Hunter said. AE1, found in more than 300 metres of water, was the first Allied submarine loss in World War I. The sub had joined naval forces assigned to the capture of the German Pacific colonies in 1914. On Sep 14 she vanished after a rendezvous off Herbertshohe – present day Kokopo – near the Duke of York Islands with the destroyer HMAS Parramatta. Retired Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Peter Briggs said in December the most likely cause of the loss remains a diving accident. Allen’s Petrel was involved in the recent discovery of the wreckage of WWII aircraft carrier USS Lexington off the east coast of Australia.
Source: Underwater survey reveals secrets of Australia WWI wreck off PNG
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 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)
I learnt today of the sad passing of Pamela Gutman on March 31. Dr Gutman was the leading scholar on Burmese art history in Australia, notable for working in the country when much of Burme (now Myanmar) was closed to the outside.
Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402
Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015
The Lowy Interpreter, 02 April 2015
At a time when there is increasing interest in Australia’s developing ties with Burma (Myanmar), the death on 31 March of Pamela Gutman brings to an end the life of the first Australian scholar to complete a doctorate in Asian art and to do so in relation to Burma.
The fruits of this research were eventually contained in her highly praised book, Burma’s Lost Kingdoms: Splendours of Arakan, published in 2001. To record these blunt facts tells little of the effort involved in her carrying out research in Burma in the 1970s, when the government was resistant to foreign scholarship, and travel in Arakan could only take place with the assistance of a military escort.
Yet Pamela overcame the difficulties research in Burma posed, which involved translating Sanskrit inscriptions and becoming highly knowledgeable about obscure numismatics. She also played an early part in government-to-government relations.
She was invited to dine with the then Burmese president, Ne Win, to advance the cause of an Australia-Burma cultural agreement, an event, as she was able to recount, that involved being admitted to Ne Win’s residence only after she had been examined through a periscope at the residence’s guard post.
Reads the full obituary here.
My alma mater is holding a symposium in May on portable art, focusing on Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Australian regions. Paper proposals are now being accepted and you are encouraged to contact Duncan Wright or Michelle Langley for more details.
The Archaeology of Portable Art: South East Asian, Pacific, and Australian Perspectives
Date: 23-24 May 2015
Venue: The Australian National University
This symposium aims to reignite the dialogue about portable art across Island South East Asia, the Pacific and Australia and by doing so review future directions for research. Specific themes are: object histories; use of ethnography/museum collections for informing archaeological research; use of ‘intangible technologies’ and organic artefacts for expressing community affiliation/identity; cognitive development, the role of portable art in Pleistocene and Holocene expansions; and experimental studies.
Full details here.
Earlier this year I posted a call by the Archaeology Unit from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies for The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project. The Age has a story out about the underwater excavation and a mention about the Southeast Asian archaeologists working at the site.
Wreck reveals its bounty
The Age, 17 April 2012
Foreign minister Bob Carr announces a donation of a million dollars to help with the maintenance of Angkor as part of his visit to the region.
Australia to give $1 million to Angkor temples
ABC News, 26 March 2012
From the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre, an opportunity for Southeast Asian Archaeologists to train in an underwater archaeology fieldwork project in Australia:
The Australian Historic Shipwreck Protection Project
Location: Port Philip Bay, Victoria, Australia
Dates: 16 April – 11 May 2012
Deadline for submission: 24 February 2012
Registration details here.
The Australian National University is hosting a symposium on the cross-cultural links between traders from Makassar in Sulawesi with northern Australia, including recent archaeological research.
Macassan history and heritage: Building understanding of journeys, encounters and influences
Institute for Professional Practice in Heritage & the Arts
The Australian National University
9-10 February 2012
A study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests an earlier arrival of the dingo to Australia, through a mainland Southeast Asia route instead of island Southeast Asia.
photo credit: Tom Purves
Dingoes originated in China 18,000 years ago [Link no longer active]
Australian Geographic, 13 September 2011
Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 07 September 2011