via Viet Nam Net, 05 April 2019: Results from a Russian-Vietnamese investigation of the An Khe site in Gia Lai province.
Over 1,000 stone objects and 600 pieces of meteorite dating back 800,000 years have been unearthed at archaeological sites in An Khe, the central highlands province of Gia Lai.
The results of the dig were announced at an international workshop gathering 200 international scholars held at the site at the end of March.
Over the past five years, archaeologists from the Viet Nam Archaeology Institute and Russia Science Academy have discovered 24 Paleolithic sites, four of which have been excavated, including Go Da, Roc Tung 1, Roc Tung 4 and Roc Tung 7.
Russian experts brought the meteorite home and conducted further analysis. They found that the meteorite samples gathered at the Go Da site (An Binh Ward) were around 806,000 years old and samples from Roc Tung 1 dated back 782,000 years.
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 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.
via TV5Monde, 10 Mar 2019: News video about excavations in Laang Spean. Video is in French.
Au Cambodge, la mission préhistorique franco-cambodgienne a mis à jour des vestiges d’occupation humaine, parmi les plus anciens de toute l’Asie du Sud-Est. Des découvertes archéologiques rendues possibles après dix ans de travail. Chaque annnée depuis 2009, l’équipe s’est rendue pendant un mois dans la région de Battambang. Aujourd’hui, le chantier touche à sa fin. Reportage dans la grotte de Laang Spean.
via Bangkok Post, 07 and 09 Mar 2019: While I’m bringing to attention the recent plans to drill for oil next to one of the ruins in Si Thep, it’s a good idea to take a step back and appreciate the significance of Si Thep in the first place. The temple ruins are only the most recent archaeological vestige; the area has been occupied for at least the last 2000 years, developing into a moated settlement with distinct Dvaravati and Khmer periods. This transformation over time which can be detected by archaeology is part of what makes Si Thep an exceptional heritage site.
The Dvaravati monument and the park, which hopes to one day be included in Unesco’s list of World Heritage sites, have recently been a hot topic in the media. But not because of the Unesco bid. (The nomination is still in the planning process.) Si Thep was in the news because an oil drilling operation is set to be carried out close to Khao Khlang Nok stupa. How close? Reportedly, around 100m.
Civic groups in the province as well as the Fine Arts Department, which oversees the historical park, protested the project, as it is a potential threat to the 1,300-year-old religious monument. While it is still unclear how the conflict will be resolved, perhaps we should take this opportunity to get to know a few things about Khao Khlang Nok and Si Thep.
The historical park can be explored on foot or, even better, by bicycle. According to archaeological studies, the area now designated as the historical park has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations have turned up human skeletons buried with pottery and other objects dating back 2,000 years. Over the centuries, the settlement developed. During the Dvaravati period, which was heavily influenced by Indian cultures, it became a moated town, and continued to prosper throughout the period of Khmer dominance.
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.
Readers in Bangkok may be interested in this fun talk at the Siam Society later this month by Dr. Wunrada Surat. The talk is part of the Pint of Science event and is free with registration. [Disclosure I am part of the organising team of Pint of Science Thailand]
Date: 26 Feb 2019 Venue: Siam Society, Asok Time: 7 pm (doors open at 6.30 pm)
The origin of prehistoric cattle in Thailand: evidence from ancient DNA
Cattle have been domesticated in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, for thousands of years, but, the history of cattle domestication in the region remains unclear. To gain some insight into cattle domestication in Thailand we extracted and sequenced DNA from 26 cattle remains, excavated from four archaeological sites located in northeastern and central Thailand, and dated to between 3,550 and 1,700 years before present (YBP) which all belonged to B. taurus. This is the first genetic evidence of when B. taurus was domesticated in Thailand.
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
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.