via Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 22 November 2023: The 2017 excavation at Asitau Kuru on Timor-Leste offers vital insights into early human behavior, tracing back 44,000 years. This site is notable for its extensive collection of marine shell artifacts, which significantly contribute to our understanding of the cultural sophistication of the earliest Homo sapiens in Southeast Asia. Paper by Langley et al.
Asitau Kuru provides a unique record of human behaviour from the first arrival of Homo sapiens onto Timor Island around 44,000 years ago through to the near present. In particular, this site has produced a large number of marine shell artefacts which have been central to rewriting our understanding of the sophistication of cultural behaviours enacted by the first populations to move into and through Island Southeast Asia. Here, we present the analysis of the shell artefact finds from the 2017 excavation of Asitau Kuru, bringing the different ornament forms—made on various but carefully selected marine species—together for the first time in a detailed examination of shell-beading traditions at this key site. We also describe a possible shell tool used in the creation of these shell adornments and a fragment of a large horned helmet shell (Cassis cornuta) which is suggested to have originated from a shell trumpet, container, adze, or other culturally significant item of material culture.