[Paper] What plants might potentially have been used in the forests of prehistoric Southeast Asia?

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

Prehistoric Phnom Penh

Archaeologists are investigating the chance finds of prehistoric material in Cambodia’s Kandal province, near Phnom Penh.

Neolithic stone tool found in Kandal province. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151230
Neolithic stone tool found in Kandal province. Source: Phnom Penh Post 20151230

Phnom Penh’s roots discovered
Phnom Penh Post, 30 December 2015

Two newly discovered archaeological sites suggest people were living close to what is now Phnom Penh thousands of years before the capital was founded.

Villagers living along the Mekong, and a monk at a pagoda, both in Kandal province, have discovered artefacts including Neolithic axes and human bone, which indicate human settlement in the area as long as 3,000 years ago, according to a report obtained yesterday.

“The use of polished stone dates back to about 1000 to 1500 BC,” said Dutch archaeologist and professor Hans Boch, one of a team of experts called to the bank of the Mekong after the find in Muk Kampoul district’s Chas village.

“The evidence shows people living there thousands of years ago,” he added.

“We found polished stone, a crafted metal bracelet, limb bones, teeth, a skull and pottery,” said Thuy Chanthourn, deputy chief of the Institute of Culture and Fine Arts at the Royal Academy of Cambodia.

Full story here.

New artefacts shed light on North Vietnam's prehistory

Recently-concluded excavations in Vietnam’s Dien Bien province promises to shed light on the development of prehistoric settlements in this region.

Unearthed artefacts handed to museum
Viet Nam News, 17 August 2010
Continue reading “New artefacts shed light on North Vietnam's prehistory”

Prehistoric site discovered in Sri Lanka

An archaeological team in Sri Lanka have discovered evidence of a 3,300-year-old archaeological site in Sri Lanka, reportedly the oldest ever discovered in the country. The finds include granite tools and painted pottery.

3300-year-old archaeological site discovered in Sri Lanka

Malaysia Sun, 23 September 2009
Continue reading “Prehistoric site discovered in Sri Lanka”

Southeast Asia, c. 100,000 B.P.

Monash University unveils an interactive map called Sahul Time, named after the ancient landmass of Australia and Papua New Guinea, that shows you the lay of the land at different points in time over the last 100,000 years. While the main focus is of course on Australia, what’s really nifty is the inclusion of much of island Southeast Asia, which would provide anyone with an interest about the prehistory of the region to see how much larger the land mass must have been – and possibly how many archaeological sites now remain underwater.

03 October 2007 (News in Science) – Monash University unveils an interactive map called Sahul Time, named after the ancient landmass of Australia and Papua New Guinea, that shows you the lay of the land at different points in time over the last 100,000 years. While the main focus is of course on Australia, what’s really nifty is the inclusion of much of island Southeast Asia, which would provide anyone with an interest about the prehistory of the region to see how much larger the land mass must have been – and possibly how many archaeological sites now remain underwater. Links in this post will lead to the News in Science article, while a separate link to Sahul Time will be added to the resources page.

Sahul Time

Mouse click reveals ancient coastline
Anna Salleh

The changing shape of Australasia can now be seen in a new interactive digital map that mimics the rise and fall of sea levels over the past 100,000 years.

The map also has pop-up images and text about key archaeological sites and possible routes humans took from Asia to Australia during the last ice age.

Continue reading “Southeast Asia, c. 100,000 B.P.”

Prehistoric opal tool site found in central Vietnam

An unusual prehistoric tool manufacture site has been found in the Lam Dong Province of Central Vietnam, unusual because the material used was opal, a rare material for that region.

16 May 2006 (Thanh Nien News, Vietnam Net Bridge) – An unusual prehistoric tool manufacture site has been found in the Lam Dong Province of Central Vietnam, unusual because the material used was opal, a rare material for that region.

Vietnam Net Bridge, 16 May 2007

Prehistoric manufacturing site discovered in Lam Dong

A 4,000 year-old rock tool manufacturing centre has been discovered in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, according to Dr Bui Chi Hoang from the HCM City Archeological Research Centre (Southern Institute of Social Sciences).

This prehistoric site is an opal rock manufacturing area where the team led by Doctor Hong has collected at least 100 items such as broken pieces of working tools, hoes and axes and opals of white, black and reddish brown colours. Not far from the site is also an opal mine believed to be the input area of the site.

Doctor Hoang said that such an opal mining and manufacturing site was rare in the southeastern region of Vietnam. Most discoveries have been schist or bazan rock working tools. As for objects made from opal, only very few of them have been found.


Related Books:
Southeast Asia: From Prehistory to History by P. S. Bellwood and I. Glover (Eds)