When the man passed away, he had not yet reached 50.
He belonged to a tribe that had settled near the Sangker River in Battambang province, likely cultivating the fields and raising animals. On the side, they hunted for boars, and even turtles, one of which would be laid in his grave to accompany him to his next life. Alongside pottery, jewellery and bangles, he would survive in fossilised form until thousands of years later when he would be discovered by a team of archaeologists in Cambodia.
One of these archaeologists is Heng Sophady, deputy director general for Cultural Heritage at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, who has devoted his life to uncovering Cambodia’s ancient past. For almost 10 years, he and his French-Cambodian team have been digging in Laang Spean cave in Battambang’s Ratanak Mondol district, making discoveries like the man’s grave, which provide evidence of the earliest known civilisations in Cambodia.
The Cambodia Daily report about recent excavations at Laang Spean focuses on the possible cannibalistic angle, but I am more intrigued by the discovery of what seems to be the first instance of portable rock art in the region: a stone tool with deep etchings on it.
A French-Cambodian archaeological team has unearthed tantalizing new artifacts from beneath a cave in Battambang province that may prove to be the earliest signs of human occupation and art in the region—and the first indication of cannibalism.
The artifacts were discovered beneath the floor of Battambang’s Laang Spean cave during a February dig by the French-Cambodian Prehistoric Mission, a collaboration between archaeologists from the Ministry of Culture and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. The team has found 71,000 years worth of human remains during past visits to the site.
The latest discoveries include a palmsized stone tool buried deeper than any other artifact found at the site to date, a stone with what appears to be deep etchings, and fragments of what may be a shattered human skull found amid prehistoric food scraps.