UO archaeologists cast doubt on controversial ‘hobbit’ theory

I remember posting about the Palau hobbits 10 (!) years ago when the story came out, and how there was a lot of dispute about it (see here, here and here). Now a new paper in Antiquity disproves this claim of island dwarfism leading to a ‘hobbit’ population living in Palau.

Remains found on a Pacific island were just small humans, Scott Fitzpatrick contends

Source: UO archaeologists cast doubt on controversial ‘hobbit’ theory

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World’s scientists turn to Asia and Australia to rewrite human history

via The Conversation, 08 December 2017

Researchers in human evolution used to focus on Africa and Eurasia – but not anymore. Discoveries in Asia and Australia have changed the picture, revealing early, complex cultures outside of Africa.

Source: World’s scientists turn to Asia and Australia to rewrite human history

How China uses shipwrecks to weave a history of seaborne trade that backs up its construction of a new maritime Silk Road

via South China Morning Post, 29 November 2017: The Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage is currently underway in Hong Kong, with many participants from Southeast Asia. This report from the SCMP focuses on China’s emerging role as a leader in maritime archaeology and its potential implications for its power.

This week, more than 100 of the region’s leading marine archaeologists from 23 nations convened at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum for the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage. At the opening reception on Monday night, the meteoric rise of China as a force in maritime archaeology was one of the popular topics of discussion.

Source: How China uses shipwrecks to weave a history of seaborne trade that backs up its construction of a new maritime Silk Road

Follow the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage #apconf2017

The Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Underwater Cultural Heritage is currently underway in Hong Kong until the end of the week. If you are on Twitter you can follow the proceedings with the hashtah #apconf2017 (or see the feed below)

Papua New Guinea skull ‘world’s oldest tsunami victim’

via AFP-New Straits Times, 26 October 2017:

A 6,000-year-old skull found in Papua New Guinea is likely the world’s oldest-known tsunami victim, experts said Thursday after a new analysis of the area it was found in.

The partially preserved Aitape Skull was discovered in 1929 by Australian geologist Paul Hossfeld, 12 kilometres (seven miles) inland from the northern coast of the Pacific nation.

It was long thought to belong to Homo erectus (upright man), an extinct species thought to be an ancestor of the modern human that died out some 140,000 years ago.

But more recent radiocarbon dating estimated it was closer to 6,000 years old, making it a member of our own species – Homo sapiens. At that time, sea levels were higher and the area would have been near the coast.

An international team led by the University of New South Wales returned to the site to collect the same geological deposits observed by Hossfeld.

Source: Papua New Guinea skull ‘world’s oldest tsunami victim’ | New Straits Times | Malaysia General Business Sports and Lifestyle News

PhD Scholarships at Griffith University

10 PhD scholarships are available to Australian and international students at the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE) and the Place, Evolution, and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU). The geographical scope of research includes Southeast Asia.

Call for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD/DPhil) Candidates in Archaeology/Human Evolution
Griffith University
Brisbane/Gold Coast, SE Queensland, Australia

In recent years, the focus of human evolution research has increasingly shifted from Africa — the ‘cradle of mankind’ — to Asia and Australia. Two of Griffith University’s leading research centres — the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution (ARCHE) and the Place, Evolution, and Rock Art Heritage Unit (PERAHU) have been at the forefront of exciting discoveries both in these regions and further abroad.

We are now seeking up to 10 highly motivated and collegial PhD candidates who would like to join our team. Domestic and international students are encouraged to apply.

Successful candidates may be eligible for a full RTP scholarship including a stipend of $26,682 pa (2017 rates) and domestic fee offset or international fee offset scholarship as appropriate. Further information regarding the Griffith University RTP Scholarship policy is available at: https://www.griffith.edu.au/higher-degrees-research/services-support-resources/research-training-program.

Projects exploring any aspect of human evolution (anatomy, behaviour, cognition), prehistoric archaeology, or palaeontology are invited. Available topics include (but not limited to) investigating extinct hominids, human dispersals, genomics, archaeology, bioinfomatics, archaeogeochemistry, geochronology, palaeontology of islands in Southeast Asia/Australia, prehistoric technologies, fossil orangs, and the development of human cognition and cultures.

Griffith researchers have expertise in archaeology, use wear analysis, palaeoanthropology, evolutionary anthropology, geochronology, landscape and human co-evolution, palaeontology, ancient and modern DNA analysis, physicochemical characterisation (archaeological pigments research), and rock art research.

Prospective candidates are requested to provide a short covering letter stating which area/areas they are interested in pursuing and potential topics of interest, a current CV and academic transcript by 3rd November 2017.

Scholarship Eligibility;

Students must meet one of the following criteria to be eligible for the Griffith University Scholarship Program;

Completed an Australian Degree of Bachelor with Honours 1 (AQF Level 8) (or international comparable qualification as assessed by NOOSR) with a research component of at least 40 credit points (one semester full‐time equivalent); or

Completed an Australian Masters Degree (AQF Level 9) (or international comparable qualification as assessed by NOOSR) with a research component of at least 40 credit points (one semester full‐time equivalent) with evidence of outstanding performance (overall gradepoint average (GPA) of 6 on a 7 point scale with a GPA of at least 6 for the research component (GPA calculated as per the University’s Calculation of Grade Point Average Policy); or

Grounds for Honours 1 equivalence based on a case where the applicant holds a combination of qualifications and research experience and/or research outputs which are determined by the University as equivalent

International applicants are also required to meet the prescribed minimum english language proficiency (ELP) with an overall band score of 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) with no band score less than 6.0; or equivalent.

Initial enquiries should be directed via email to Ms Dian Riseley, Institute Manager, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University email d.riseley@grififth.edu.au

Further information is also available on our websites:
ARCHE: https://www.griffith.edu.au/environment-planning-architecture/environmental-futures-research-institute/research/human-evolution

PERAHU: https://www.griffith.edu.au/humanities-languages/place-evolution-rock-art-heritage-unit

Birthplace of Austronesians is Taiwan, capital was Taitung: Scholar

via Taitung News, 06 September 2017:

A growing number of scholars from various fields both domestically and abroad are coming to the conclusion that Taiwan is the birthplace of the Austronesian people and language family, and Academia Sinica scholar Liu I-chang (劉益昌) has taken this a step further by proposing that the nexus of this ancient culture 4,000 years ago was Taitung, reported CNA.

Liu yesterday participated in an experiment which demonstrated the seaworthiness of a replica of an ancient Amis bamboo raft that the indigenous Taiwanese tribe may have been capable of building 4,000 years ago. The boat was built based on records of such vessels prior to Japanese colonization in Taiwan and similar craft found in the Philippines and Vietnam half a century ago.

Source: Birthplace of Austronesians is Taiwan, capital was Taitung: Scholar | Taiwan News

Humans occupied northern Australia 65,000 years ago: What does this mean for SEA?

An exciting paper was published last week in Nature and received a fair bit of media coverage: dating from the Madjedbebe site in Northern Territories of Australia have yielded the earliest human occupation dates of 65,000 years, setting a new minimum age of human migration. The previous conventional earliest occupation date was about 47,000 years ago – so this new date is a pretty big deal. The finds have a bigger implication for human occupation in Southeast Asia: so far the oldest modern human remains found in SEA are from Tham Pa Ling in Laos, which are approximately 60,000 years old. This new find from Australia suggests that there may be older remains yet to be found in SEA.

The time of arrival of people in Australia is an unresolved question. It is relevant to debates about when modern humans first dispersed out of Africa and when their descendants incorporated genetic material from Neanderthals, Denisovans and possibly other hominins. Humans have also been implicated in the extinction of Australia’s megafauna. Here we report the results of new excavations conducted at Madjedbebe, a rock shelter in northern Australia. Artefacts in primary depositional context are concentrated in three dense bands, with the stratigraphic integrity of the deposit demonstrated by artefact refits and by optical dating and other analyses of the sediments. Human occupation began around 65,000 years ago, with a distinctive stone tool assemblage including grinding stones, ground ochres, reflective additives and ground-edge hatchet heads. This evidence sets a new minimum age for the arrival of humans in Australia, the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa, and the subsequent interactions of modern humans with Neanderthals and Denisovans.

Source: Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago : Nature : Nature Research

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