Is UNESCO World Heritage recognition a blessing or burden? Evidence from developing Asian countries

via The Conversation, 11 July 2018: a piece by Josephine Caust

With colleague Dr Mariana Vecco, I recently published a research article about these issues. Some of our recommendations for vulnerable sites include:

  • introducing control of visitor numbers as a matter of urgency
  • tighter planning controls on adjacent development
  • querying the use of sites for any tourist activities
  • auditing sites for damage already incurred.

All of this should occur if UNESCO status is to be continued. However, there is also a bigger conversation we need to have – should tourists visit vulnerable sites and practices?

Hoi An is still a beautiful town but the presence of “wall to wall” tourists mars it. Sadly, as long as UNESCO status is used more as a marketing device than a route to preservation, the situation will continue to deteriorate.

Source: Is UNESCO World Heritage recognition a blessing or burden? Evidence from developing Asian countries

The prehistoric peopling of Southeast Asia

Earlier this month, a fascinating paper was published in Science about the genetic origins of Southeast Asian populations. Analysis of genomes from 25 ancient samples reveal that rather the neither of the existing theories (hunter-gathering Hoabinhians, or agriculturalists from China) are correct, and that there are four ancient populations the form the basis of all modern Southeast Asian populations today.

The prehistoric peopling of Southeast Asia
McColl et al.
Science 06 Jul 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 88-92
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3628

The human occupation history of Southeast Asia (SEA) remains heavily debated. Current evidence suggests that SEA was occupied by Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers until ~4000 years ago, when farming economies developed and expanded, restricting foraging groups to remote habitats. Some argue that agricultural development was indigenous; others favor the “two layer” hypothesis that posits a southward expansion of farmers giving rise to present-day Southeast Asian genetic diversity. By sequencing 26 ancient human genomes (25 from SEA, 1 Japanese Jōmon), we show that neither interpretation fits the complexity of Southeast Asian history: Both Hòabìnhian hunter-gatherers and East Asian farmers contributed to current Southeast Asian diversity, with further migrations affecting island SEA and Vietnam. Our results help resolve one of the long-standing controversies in Southeast Asian prehistory.

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[Paper] Complex history of dog (Canis familiaris) origins and translocations in the Pacific revealed by ancient mitogenomes

New paper in Nature about the origins and spread of dogs in Southeast Asia and the Pacific by Kreig et al.

Article

Complex history of dog (Canis familiaris) origins and translocations in the Pacific revealed by ancient mitogenomes

Archaeological evidence suggests that dogs were introduced to the islands of Oceania via Island Southeast Asia around 3,300 years ago, and reached the eastern islands of Polynesia by the fourteenth century AD. This dispersal is intimately tied to human expansion, but the involvement of dogs in Pacific migrations is not well understood. Our analyses of seven new complete ancient mitogenomes and five partial mtDNA sequences from archaeological dog specimens from Mainland and Island Southeast Asia and the Pacific suggests at least three dog dispersal events into the region, in addition to the introduction of dingoes to Australia. We see an early introduction of dogs to Island Southeast Asia, which does not appear to extend into the islands of Oceania. A shared haplogroup identified between Iron Age Taiwanese dogs, terminal-Lapita and post-Lapita dogs suggests that at least one dog lineage was introduced to Near Oceania by or as the result of interactions with Austronesian language speakers associated with the Lapita Cultural Complex. We did not find any evidence that these dogs were successfully transported beyond New Guinea. Finally, we identify a widespread dog clade found across the Pacific, including the islands of Polynesia, which likely suggests a post-Lapita dog introduction from southern Island Southeast Asia.

Source: Nature

[Paper] Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory

A paper published in Science analyses the genomes of ancient Southeast Asian DNA and detected three distinct waves of migration into Southeast Asia beginning with hunter-gatherers around 45,000 years ago, followed by the Neolithic and the introduction of agricultural practices some 4,500 years ago, and a migration associated with the Bronze age, which reached Myanmar 3,000 years ago, Vietnam 2,000 years ago and Thailand in the last 1,000 years.

Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory
Science 17 May 2018:
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat3188

Southeast Asia is home to rich human genetic and linguistic diversity, but the details of past population movements in the region are not well known. Here, we report genome-wide ancient DNA data from eighteen Southeast Asian individuals spanning from the Neolithic period through the Iron Age (4100–1700 years ago). Early farmers from Man Bac in Vietnam exhibit a mixture of East Asian (southern Chinese agriculturalist) and deeply diverged eastern Eurasian (hunter-gatherer) ancestry characteristic of Austroasiatic speakers, with similar ancestry as far south as Indonesia providing evidence for an expansive initial spread of Austroasiatic languages. By the Bronze Age, in a parallel pattern to Europe, sites in Vietnam and Myanmar show close connections to present-day majority groups, reflecting substantial additional influxes of migrants.

Source: Ancient genomes document multiple waves of migration in Southeast Asian prehistory | Science

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The three words that solved an 800-year-old shipwreck mystery

via News.com.au, 17 May 2018: Chinese inscription provides evidence for a new date to the Java Sea Shipwreck.

AN 800-year-old piece of pottery has helped archaeologists put together fascinating new details about a medieval ship that sank off the coast of Indonesia.

Source: The three words that solved an 800-year-old shipwreck mystery

Revisiting the date of the Java Sea Shipwreck from Indonesia
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.04.002

In this article we draw on suites of new information to reinterpret the date of the Java Sea Shipwreck. The ship was a Southeast Asian trading vessel carrying a large cargo of Chinese ceramics and iron as well as luxury items from outside of China, such as elephant tusks and resin. Initially the wreck, which was recovered in Indonesia, was placed temporally in the mid- to late 13th century based on a single radiocarbon sample and ceramic styles. We employ new data, including multiple radiocarbon dates and inscriptions found on some of the ceramics, to suggest that an earlier chronological placement be considered.

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Evidence for persistent forest reliance by indigenous peoples in historical Sri Lanka

via Science Daily, 26 April 2018:

Working closely with Wanniyalaeto (Vedda) elders in Sri Lanka during the repatriation of skeletal remains, a team of researchers have demonstrated that while some indigenous hunter-gatherers in Sri Lanka made use of agricultural resources and trade connections with farmers and colonial power structures, others continued to subsist primarily on tropical forest resources as late as the 19th century.

Source: Evidence for persistent forest reliance by indigenous peoples in historical Sri Lanka

Bajau Sea Nomads genetically adapted for freediving

A new paper published in Cell finds that the spleens of the Bajau people, the Sea Nomads of Island Southeast Asia, are significantly larger than their land-based neighbours, which has been the result of many generations of natural selection. Larger spleen size helps in diving by providing extra oxygenated blood into the body.

Physiological and Genetic Adaptations to Diving in Sea Nomads
Cell, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2018.03.054

Understanding the physiology and genetics of human hypoxia tolerance has important medical implications, but this phenomenon has thus far only been investigated in high-altitude human populations. Another system, yet to be explored, is humans who engage in breath-hold diving. The indigenous Bajau people (“Sea Nomads”) of Southeast Asia live a subsistence lifestyle based on breath-hold diving and are renowned for their extraordinary breath-holding abilities. However, it is unknown whether this has a genetic basis. Using a comparative genomic study, we show that natural selection on genetic variants in the PDE10A gene have increased spleen size in the Bajau, providing them with a larger reservoir of oxygenated red blood cells. We also find evidence of strong selection specific to the Bajau on BDKRB2, a gene affecting the human diving reflex. Thus, the Bajau, and possibly other diving populations, provide a new opportunity to study human adaptation to hypoxia tolerance.

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WESTERN AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM CATALOGUE OF PREVIOUSLY UNPUBLISHED DATA FROM THAI-AUSTRALIAN EXCAVATIONS IN THAILAND

via the Western Australian Museum: This report has been collated for the purpose of completing the record of artefacts recovered during excavations undertaken by joint Thai-Australian expeditions in the 1980s. This group represented the Thai Fine Arts Department Underwater Archaeology Division, Silapakorn University, the Thai Ceramic Archaeological Project, the Western Australian Museum, the Australian (now Australasian) Institute for Archaeology, the University of Adelaide, the Art Gallery of South Australia and on occasion, participants of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMO), Special Project in Archaeology and Fine Arts (SPAFA). Participants represented Thailand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Canada, Poland and the United States of America. Included is information recorded by the author whilst participating in excavations of kiln sites at Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai Province and the Bang Rachan or Mae Nam Noi Kiln site, Singburi Province, Thailand during the 1980s. A brief visit was also made to the Ban Bang Pun Kiln site, Suphanburi. The author was also privileged to have been given access to the ceramic sherd collection of the National Museum of the Philippines, Manila and those of the regional museums of Butuan and Cebu cities.

No volcanic winter in East Africa from ancient Toba eruption: The supereruption 74,000 years ago did not trigger major environmental disruption that caused human populations in East Africa to decline, say geoscientists.

via Science Daily, 06 Feb 2018: The Toba supereruption on the island of Sumatra about 74,000 years ago did not cause a six-year-long ‘volcanic winter’ in East Africa and thereby cause the human population in the region to plummet, according to new research based on an analysis of ancient plant remains from lake cores. The new findings disagree with the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, which says the eruption and its aftermath caused drastic, multi-year cooling and severe ecological disruption in East Africa.

The Toba supereruption on the island of Sumatra about 74,000 years ago did not cause a six-year-long ‘volcanic winter’ in East Africa and thereby cause the human population in the region to plummet, according to new research based on an analysis of ancient plant remains from lake cores. The new findings disagree with the Toba catastrophe hypothesis, which says the eruption and its aftermath caused drastic, multi-year cooling and severe ecological disruption in East Africa.

Source: No volcanic winter in East Africa from ancient Toba eruption: The supereruption 74,000 years ago did not trigger major environmental disruption that caused human populations in East Africa to decline, say geoscientists.

[Paper] Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia

New paper on newly-discovered rock art on Kisar Island, Indonesia by O’Connor et al. published in the Cambridge Archaeology Journal. What’s really interesting in this paper is the fact that the paintings have some similarities with those from East Timor, about 20 km across the sea.

Painted rock art occurs throughout the islands of the Western Pacific and has previously been argued to have motif and design elements in common, indicating that it was created within the context of a shared symbolic system. Here we report five new painted rock-art sites from Kisar Island in eastern Indonesia and investigate the commonalities between this art and the painted art corpus in Timor-Leste, the independent nation that forms the eastern part of the neighbouring island of Timor. We examine the motifs in the Kisar art and suggest that, rather than being Neolithic in age, some of the figurative motifs more likely have a Metal Age origin, which in this region places them within the last 2500 years.

Source: Ideology, Ritual Performance and Its Manifestations in the Rock Art of Timor-Leste and Kisar Island, Island Southeast Asia | Cambridge Archaeological Journal | Cambridge Core

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