A reassessment of the early archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a Late Pleistocene rock-shelter site on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi

A new paper on PLOS One describes stone tools finds from the rock shelter of Leang Burung in Sulawesi, dating to more than 50,000 years – but it is uncertain which species of humans made them.

This paper presents a reassessment of the archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a key early human occupation site in the Late Pleistocene of Southeast Asia. Excavated originally by Ian Glover in 1975, this limestone rock-shelter in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, Indonesia, has long held significance in our understanding of early human dispersals into ‘Wallacea’, the vast zone of oceanic islands between continental Asia and Australia. We present new stratigraphic information and dating evidence from Leang Burung 2 collected during the course of our excavations at this site in 2007 and 2011–13. Our findings suggest that the classic Late Pleistocene modern human occupation sequence identified previously at Leang Burung 2, and proposed to span around 31,000 to 19,000 conventional 14C years BP (~35–24 ka cal BP), may actually represent an amalgam of reworked archaeological materials. Sources for cultural materials of mixed ages comprise breccias from the rear wall of the rock-shelter–remnants of older, eroded deposits dated to 35–23 ka cal BP–and cultural remains of early Holocene antiquity. Below the upper levels affected by the mass loss of Late Pleistocene deposits, our deep-trench excavations uncovered evidence for an earlier hominin presence at the site. These findings include fossils of now-extinct proboscideans and other ‘megafauna’ in stratified context, as well as a cobble-based stone artifact technology comparable to that produced by late Middle Pleistocene hominins elsewhere on Sulawesi.

Source: A reassessment of the early archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a Late Pleistocene rock-shelter site on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi | PLOS One, doi: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193025

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Archaeologists uncover ancient trading network in Vietnam

A new paper in Antiquity reveals the circulation and manufacture of stone tools during the Neolithic in Southern Vietnam. The paper is published by some of my former colleagues at the Australian National University.

A new study shows a number of settlements along the Mekong Delta region of Southern Vietnam were part of a sophisticated scheme where large volumes of items were manufactured and circulated over hundreds of kilometres.

Lead researcher Dr Catherine Frieman School of the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said the discovery significantly changes what was known about early Vietnamese culture.

“We knew some artefacts were being moved around but this shows evidence for a major trade network that also included specialist tool-makers and technological knowledge. It’s a whole different ball game,” Dr Frieman said.

Source: Archaeologists uncover ancient trading network in Vietnam

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Stone workshop suggests hominids in Central Vietnam 800,000 years ago

Stone tools estimated to be around 700,000-800,000 years old in Central Vietnam suggest the presence of hominids during the Paleolithic.

Stone tools from Gia Lai. Source: Viet Nam Net 20160707
Stone tools from Gia Lai. Source: Viet Nam Net 20160707

Discovery about ancient workshop stirs archeological community
Vietnam Net, 07 July 2016

The team of archaeologists from the Novosibirsk Institute of Archaeology & Ethnology belonging to the Russian Federal Science Academy and the Institute of Archaeology and Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences made the discovery about the existence of a production workshop of Vietnamese primitive men.

Dr Nguyen Gia Doi, Deputy Director of the Institute of Archaeology, said the exact name of the relic site is an early paleolithic relic with fossil tektite samples believed to be aged 770,000-800,000 years and stone artifacts such as hand axes.

This means that the upper course of the Ba River in An Khe was the place for people 700,000 years ago. This s the oldest appearance of humans and civilization ever recorded in Vietnamese territory.

Full story here.

Hints of Vietnam in the palaeolithic emerge from the Central Highlands

Stone tools discovered in the mountains of Central Vietnam suggest the presence of hominids around 800,000 years ago.

Palaeolithic handaxes from central Vietnam. Source: Vietnam Net 20160412
Palaeolithic handaxes from central Vietnam. Source: Vietnam Net 20160412

Vietnam discovers likely most ancient early Paleolithic sites in central region
Xinhua, via Shanghai Daily, 11 April 2016

Traces of Paleolithic age discovered in Vietnam
Vietnam Net, 12 April 2016

Vietnam for the first time discovered early Paleolithic sites inside cultural layer with stone tools and tektites believed to date back 770,000-800,000 years ago, according to Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS) on Monday.

This is likely considered the most ancient mark ever-known on the appearance of human and their culture in Vietnam, the VASS said in Hanoi on Friday while announcing on preliminary results of archaeological study in An Khe town of Vietnam’s Central Highlands Gia Lai province.

In 2014, while implementing a ministerial level scientific project, archaeologists discovered five early Paleolithic sites in An Khe town, said Nguyen Gia Doi, Deputy Director of Institute of Archaeology under the VASS.

Full stories here and here.

Stone tools push the human occupation of Sulawesi back by 60,000 years

The discovery of stone tools from Sulawesi date to 118,000 years ago – possibly by the so-called hobbits – predate what is thought to be the earliest arrival of humans into Southeast Asia 50,000 – 60,000 years ago.

Stone tools dating to 118,000 years from Sulawesi. Source: ABC News 20160114
Stone tools dating to 118,000 years from Sulawesi. Source: ABC News 20160114

Earliest hominin occupation of Sulawesi, Indonesia
Gerrit D. van den Bergh, Bo Li, Adam Brumm, Rainer Grün, Dida Yurnaldi, Mark W. Moore, Iwan Kurniawan, Ruly Setiawan, Fachroel Aziz, Richard G. Roberts, Suyono, Michael Storey, Erick Setiabudi & Michael J. Morwood
Nature, doi:10.1038/nature16448

A group of mysterious humans left these tools in Indonesia over 118,000 years ago
Ars Technica, 15 January 2016

Stone tools found on Sulawesi in Indonesia ‘made by ancient humans at least 118,000 years ago
ABC News, 14 January 2016

‘Hobbit’ gets a neighbor: Stone tools hint at archaic human presence
CS Monitor, 14 January 2016

Ancient tools show how mysterious ‘Hobbit’ occupied Indonesian island
Reuters, via Ottowa Sun, 13 January 2016

Sulawesi is the largest and oldest island within Wallacea, a vast zone of oceanic islands separating continental Asia from the Pleistocene landmass of Australia and Papua (Sahul). By one million years ago an unknown hominin lineage had colonized Flores immediately to the south1, and by about 50 thousand years ago, modern humans (Homo sapiens) had crossed to Sahul2, 3. On the basis of position, oceanic currents and biogeographical context, Sulawesi probably played a pivotal part in these dispersals4. Uranium-series dating of speleothem deposits associated with rock art in the limestone karst region of Maros in southwest Sulawesi has revealed that humans were living on the island at least 40 thousand years ago (ref. 5). Here we report new excavations at Talepu in the Walanae Basin northeast of Maros, where in situ stone artefacts associated with fossil remains of megafauna (Bubalus sp., Stegodon and Celebochoerus) have been recovered from stratified deposits that accumulated from before 200 thousand years ago until about 100 thousand years ago. Our findings suggest that Sulawesi, like Flores, was host to a long-established population of archaic hominins, the ancestral origins and taxonomic status of which remain elusive.

Article can be found here.

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.

Taiwanese highway artefacts revealed

Neolithic artefacts discovered during the construction of a highway in Taiwan have been revealed, after an excavation programme that started last year. The stone tools and pottery fragments are thought to be around 3,000 years old.

Prehistoric relics make public debut in Miaoli [Link no longer active]
Taiwan Today, 05 March 2015

An assortment of relics recovered from an expressway construction site in northern Taiwan’s Miaoli County were publicly unveiled March 4, shedding new light on Neolithic life on the island.

Comprising everyday items, as well as pottery fragments and stone axes, the 3,000-year-old artifacts were unearthed during a Directorate-General of Highways-commissioned dig starting last October.

According to Archaeo Cultures Co. Ltd., the firm responsible for carrying out the project, the 24,000-square-meter-plus Dianziwo site was discovered in 1993 by a Miaoli local.

Rock art found in Vietnam

Vietnamese archaeologists report the discovery of stone tools in Ha Giang province – but more notably, painted rock art! I believe this might be the first instance of painted rock art reported in Vietnam.

Rock art at Kho My Cave, Viet Nam News 20120911
Rock art at Kho My Cave, Viet Nam News 20120911

Ancient farm tools help dig up the past [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 11 Sep 2012
Continue reading “Rock art found in Vietnam”

Palaeolithic tools found in northeast Vietnam

Vietnamese archaeologists report the discovery of palaeolithic stone tools from Ha Giang Province, in northeast Vietnam.

Palaeolithic tools from Ha Giang Province, Vietnam. Viet Nam News 20120906
Palaeolithic tools from Ha Giang Province, Vietnam. Viet Nam News 20120906

Archaelogists find traces of early humans in Ha Giang [Link no longer active]
Viet Nam News, 06 Sep 2012
Continue reading “Palaeolithic tools found in northeast Vietnam”