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.

Stone faces found in Timor cave

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Researchers working in the Lene Hara Cave in eastern tip of East Timor have reported a previously-undiscovered set of stone carvings of faces. U/Th dating of the petroglyphs put them to be between 10,000 and 12,000 years old.

Stone Faces from East Timor, Brisbane Times 20110214

Faces of the ancestors revealed: discovery and dating of a Pleistocene-age petroglyph in Lene Hara Cave, East Timor
O’Connor et al, 2010. Antiquity 84:325, pp 649-665

Face to face with 10,000 year-old carvings
Brisbane Times, 14 Feb 2011

SE Asia’s oldest rock carving found by surprise
Australian Geographic, 15 Feb 2011
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