The world is introduced to Homo luzonensis – a news roundup

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Bone from Callao Cave. Source: Rob Rownd / Nature.com 20190410

Big archaeology news from last week that has made news around the world as the announcement of a new identified human species from the Philippines, dubbed Homo luzonensis. The paper was published in Nature and it describes new bones discovered from the same stratigraphic later as the Callao Man, which was previously described as a diminutive human that lived in the Philippines 67,000 years ago. With the discovery of additional bones from at least three other individual, the team from France, the Philippines and Australia have enough data to describe it as a new species.

The discovery puts Philippine archaeology in the spotlight, with last year’s discovery of a fossil rhino with butcher marks dating more than 700,000 years old (see here and here). More excavations are being planned in Cagayan, and this discovery, along with the previous discovery of Homo floresiensis will put a lot of focus on human evolution and Southeast Asia’s role in it.

Here’s the link to the Nature paper, links to news articles below:

A new species of Homo from the Late Pleistocene of the Philippines
Nature, 568, pp. 181–186 (2019)

A hominin third metatarsal discovered in 2007 in Callao Cave (Northern Luzon, the Philippines) and dated to 67 thousand years ago provided the earliest direct evidence of a human presence in the Philippines. Analysis of this foot bone suggested that it belonged to the genus Homo, but to which species was unclear. Here we report the discovery of twelve additional hominin elements that represent at least three individuals that were found in the same stratigraphic layer of Callao Cave as the previously discovered metatarsal. These specimens display a combination of primitive and derived morphological features that is different from the combination of features found in other species in the genus Homo (including Homo floresiensis and Homo sapiens) and warrants their attribution to a new species, which we name Homo luzonensis. The presence of another and previously unknown hominin species east of the Wallace Line during the Late Pleistocene epoch underscores the importance of island Southeast Asia in the evolution of the genus Homo.

News articles:

[Paper] Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia

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Distribution of craniometric samples from Matsumura et al. 2019, Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia
Distribution of craniometric samples from Matsumura et al. 2019, Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia

via Nature Scientific Reports, 05 Feb 2019: Analysis of skulls from archaeological sites in Southeast and East Asia support a two-layer model of anatomically modern populations entering into Asia.

Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia
Nature Scientific Reports, Matsumura et al., https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35426-z

This cranio-morphometric study emphasizes a “two-layer model” for eastern Eurasian anatomically modern human (AMH) populations, based on large datasets of 89 population samples including findings directly from ancient archaeological contexts. Results suggest that an initial “first layer” of AMH had related closely to ancestral Andaman, Australian, Papuan, and Jomon groups who likely entered this region via the Southeast Asian landmass, prior to 65–50 kya. A later “second layer” shared strong cranial affinities with Siberians, implying a Northeast Asian source, evidenced by 9 kya in central China and then followed by expansions of descendant groups into Southeast Asia after 4 kya. These two populations shared limited initial exchange, and the second layer grew at a faster rate and in greater numbers, linked with contexts of farming that may have supported increased population densities. Clear dichotomization between the two layers implies a temporally deep divergence of distinct migration routes for AMH through both southern and northern Eurasia.

Source: Craniometrics Reveal “Two Layers” of Prehistoric Human Dispersal in Eastern Eurasia | Scientific Reports

Culture Ministry to unearth Khmer Rouge victims

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Source: Khmer Times, 20190111

via Khmer Times, 11 Jan 2019:

The Culture and Fine Arts Ministry’s archaeology department will soon catalogue remains of Khmer Rouge victims to be unearthed as it excavates 200 mass graves across the country.

The untouched graves are remnants of the genocidal Khmer Rouge that was responsible for the death of about 1.7 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979.

Department head Voeun Vuthy on Tuesday said that his team has so far catalogued the remains of victims at six killing sites since it began work in 2012.

Source: Culture Ministry to unearth Khmer Rouge victims – Khmer Times

Researchers unearth 6,000-year-old skeleton of teenage girl in Gua Chawan, Kelantan

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Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

via Malay Mail and other sources, 18 December 2018: Archaeologists in Malaysia announce the discovery of a Mesolithic-period skeleton in Kelantan.

Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

Department of National Heritage senior museum assistant Khairil Amri Abd Ghani examining the skeleton found in Gua Chawan, Kelantan. Source: The Star, 20181218

The skeleton from the Mesolithic period or middle stone age, was found by researchers from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), archaeologists from National Heritage Department (JWN) and researchers from the History Department, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris during the archaeological excavation at the cave.

Source: Researchers unearth 6,000-year-old skeleton of teenage girl in Gua Chawan, Kelantan | Malaysia | Malay Mail

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Rare tiger fossil in cave at Gopeng, Perak, must be preserved

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via The Star, 01 October 2018:

Tiger fossil in Perak, Malaysia. Source: The Star, 20181001

Tiger fossil in Perak, Malaysia. Source: The Star, 20181001

THE PERAK state government is keen to preserve Gua Naga Mas in Gopeng because of a unique complete fossil of a mammal embedded in the limestone cave wall.

State Tourism, Arts and Culture Committee chairman Tan Kar Hing said researchers believe the fossil is unique.

“When a group of researchers made the discovery, they compiled a report with officials, confirming it was a carnivore fossil.

“The thing is, during my recent visit to the site and also meetings with several agencies, we did not have much scientific report on it.

For now, Tan noted that the cave, located in a Siamese temple, was still open to the public.

Source: Rare tiger fossil in cave at Gopeng, Perak, must be preserved – Metro News | The Star Online

Ancient skeletons discovered in Vietnam cave

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Source: VNE, 20180919

via VNE and other sources, 19 September 2018: Vietnamese arhaeologists announce the discovery of Neolithic human remains in a volcanic cave in Dak Nong Province.

Source: VNE, 20180919

Source: VNE, 20180919

The remains of 10 Neolithic humans have been found along with thousands of artifacts in the most bountiful archeological site in the region.

Scientists announced on Tuesday the results of their excavation in the Krong No volcanic cave in Dak Nong Province, in the southwest of the Central Highlands at the tail end of the Truong Son mountain chain.

Krong No is a volcanic cave system that has made headlines for its impressive scale and length. The 25-kilometer cave, the longest in Southeast Asia, starts at the Choar volcanic crater and stretches along the Serepok River, ending at Dray Sap waterfall.

Source: Ancient skeletons discovered in Vietnam cave – VnExpress International

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Southeast Asian population boomed 4,000 years ago

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Clare McFadden, lead author. Source: ANU

via Science Daily/ANU, 20 September 2018: A new paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science shows evidence for a rapid population growth in Southeast Asia around 4,000 years ago using an analysis that takes into account the proportion of children and infants in population measurements.

Clare McFadden, lead author. Source: ANU

Clare McFadden, lead author. Source: ANU

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) have uncovered a previously unconfirmed population boom across South East Asia that occurred 4,000 years ago, thanks to a new method for measuring prehistoric population growth.

Using the new population measurement method, which utilises human skeletal remains, they have been able to prove a significant rapid increase in growth across populations in Thailand, China and Vietnam during the Neolithic Period, and a second subsequent rise in the Iron Age.

Source: Southeast Asian population boomed 4,000 years ago — ScienceDaily

[Paper] New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia

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First direct dates of dingo bones from a site in Western Australia. Dingoes are one of the few mammals that crossed water (most likely accompanying humans) before European arrival. The dates and location of the site suggest that dingoes spread throughout the continent relatively quickly after their introduction.

New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia
Balme et al.
Scientific Reports
https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28324-x

The dingo is the only placental land mammal aside from murids and bats to have made the water crossings to reach Australia prior to European arrival. It is thought that they arrived as a commensal animal with people, some time in the mid Holocene. However, the timing of their arrival is still a subject of major debate with published age estimates varying widely. This is largely because the age estimates for dingo arrival are based on archaeological deposit dates and genetic divergence estimates, rather than on the dingo bones themselves. Currently, estimates vary from between 5000–4000 years ago, for finds from archaeological contexts, and as much as 18,000 based on DNA age estimates. The timing of dingo arrival is important as post arrival they transformed Indigenous societies across mainland Australia and have been implicated in the extinction of a number of animals including the Tasmanian tiger. Here we present the results of direct dating of dingo bones from their oldest known archaeological context, Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain. These dates demonstrate that dingoes were in southern Australia by between 3348 and 3081 years ago. We suggest that following their introduction the dingo may have spread extremely rapidly throughout mainland Australia.

Source: New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia | Nature Scientific Reports

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Misteri Mata Panah dan Kerangka Manusia di Maros

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via Mongo Bay, 09 June 2018: The archaeology of Makassar and the prehistoric Toalian culture. Article is in Bahasa.

  Maros point, begitu nama mata panah ini. Usia diperkirakan antara 7.000 hingga 3.500 tahun. Benda ini ditemukan di banyak tempat di kawasan karts Maros, termasuk di Leang Jarie. Bulan…

Source: Misteri Mata Panah dan Kerangka Manusia di Maros

[Paper] Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)

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New paper in PLOS One describing mandibles from the Niah Caves – these were excavated by the Harrissons in 1957.

Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)
Darren Curnoe, Ipoi Datan, Jian-xin Zhao, Charles Leh Moi Ung, Maxime Aubert, Mohammed S. Sauffi, Goh Hsiao Mei, Raynold Mendoza, Paul S. C. Taçon
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196633

The skeletal remains of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene humans are exceptionally rare in island Southeast Asia. As a result, the identity and physical adaptations of the early inhabitants of the region are poorly known. One archaeological locality that has historically been important for understanding the peopling of island Southeast Asia is the Niah Caves in the northeast of Borneo. Here we present the results of direct Uranium-series dating and the first published descriptions of three partial human mandibles from the West Mouth of the Niah Caves recovered during excavations by the Harrissons in 1957. One of them (mandible E/B1 100″) is somewhat younger than the ‘Deep Skull’ with a best dating estimate of c30-28 ka (at 2σ), while the other two mandibles (D/N5 42–48″ and E/W 33 24–36″) are dated to a minimum of c11.0–10.5 ka (at 2σ) and c10.0–9.0 ka (at 2σ). Jaw E/B1 100″ is unusually small and robust compared with other Late Pleistocene mandibles suggesting that it may have been ontogenetically altered through masticatory strain under a model of phenotypic plasticity. Possible dietary causes could include the consumption of tough or dried meats or palm plants, behaviours which have been documented previously in the archaeological record of the Niah Caves. Our work suggests a long history back to before the LGM of economic strategies involving the exploitation of raw plant foods or perhaps dried and stored meat resources. This offers new insights into the economic strategies of Late Pleistocene-early Holocene hunter-gatherers living in, or adjacent to, tropical rainforests.

Source: Rare Late Pleistocene-early Holocene human mandibles from the Niah Caves (Sarawak, Borneo)