Posts Tagged ‘Java’

Homo erectus was making engravings 500,000 years ago

December 4, 2014

Long before any specimens of Homo sapiens were even gleams in the eyes of their hominin ancestors, Homo erectus peoples on Java (how and when did they get there?) were using shells as tools and were making engravings on the shells themselves. A new paper in Nature reports on studies of hundreds of fossil shells from the Homo erectus site Trinil, on the Indonesian island of Java. The shells are part of the Dubois Collection held at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. They have been dated to about 500,000 years ago.

Of course if all Homo Sapiens came Out of Africa (or Africarabia) around 100,000 years ago, then these Homo erectus on Java must have gone extinct without leaving any survivors (unless some of their genes still live on through later admixtures).

Joordens J.C.A., et al. Homo erectus at Trinil on Java used shells for tool product i on and engraving, Nature 10.1038/nature19362.

The 'Pseudodon shell' fossil with the engraving made by Homo erectus op Trinil. (Photo: Wim Lustenhouwer, Vrije Universiteit)

The ‘Pseudodon shell’ fossil with the engraving made by Homo erectus on Trinil. (Photo: Wim Lustenhouwer, Vrije Universiteit)

From the Leiden University Press Release:

Oldest ever engraving discovered on 500,000-year-old shell

Homo erectus on Java was already using shells of freshwater mussels as tools half a million years ago, and as a ‘canvas’ for an engraving. An international team of researchers, led by Leiden archaeologist José Joordens, published this discovery on 3 December in Nature. The discovery provides new insights into the evolution of human behaviour.

‘Until this discovery, it was assumed that comparable engravings were only made by modern humans – Homo sapiens – in Africa, starting about 100,000 years ago,’ says lead author José Joordens, researcher at the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden University.

A team of 21 researchers studied hundreds of fossil shells from the Homo erectus site Trinil, on the Indonesian island of Java. The shells are part of the Dubois Collection held at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden. The shells were excavated at the end of the 19th century by the Dutch physician and researcher Eugène Dubois, the discoverer ofPithecanthropus erectus – now known as Homo erectus.

The discovery of an engraved geometrical pattern on one of the shells came as a total surprise. The zigzag pattern, that can only be seen with oblique lighting, clearly pre-dates the weathering processes on the shell arising from fossilisation. The study has excluded the possibility that the pattern could have been caused by animals or by natural weathering processes and shows that the zigzag pattern is the work of Homo erectus.

By applying two dating methods, researchers at the VU University Amsterdam and Wageningen University have determined that the shell with the engraving is minimally 430,000 and maximally 540,000 years old.This means that the engraving is at least four times older than the previously oldest known engravings, found in Africa. …..

…… This research has shown that these early human-like people were very clever about how they opened these large freshwater mussels; they drilled a hole through the shell using a sharp object, possibly a shark’s tooth, exactly at the point where the muscle is attached that keeps the shell closed. ‘The precision with which these early humans worked indicates great dexterity and detailed knowledge of mollusc anatomy,’ says Frank Wesselingh, a researcher and expert on fossil shells at Naturalis. The molluscs were eaten and the empty shells were used to manufacture tools, such as knives.

A. Shell tool, made by Homo erectus. B. Detail of the sharp edge used for cutting or etching. (Photo: Francesco d'Errico, Bordeaux University)

A. Shell tool, made by Homo erectus. B. Detail of the sharp edge used for cutting or etching. (Photo: Francesco d’Errico, Bordeaux University)

 

 

Merapi eruptions slowing down but still deadly

November 13, 2010

Mount Merapi volcano continued spewing hot gas ash but not as violently as before. But the death toll continues to climb as people succumb to their injuries.

Mount Merapi spews volcanic material as seen from Argomulyo, Indonesia, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010.(AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

The Jakarta Globe now puts the toll at 240 lives:

Indonesia’s Mount Merapi volcano has killed 240 people since it began erupting late last month, with more than 390,000 people in makeshift camps, an official said. That figure continues to rise as people with severe burns die from their wounds and officials count those who have died from respiratory problems, heart attacks and other illnesses related to the blasts.

In addition, search operations continue for bodies buried under a thick layer of ash that shrouds whole villages. On Friday, soldiers pulled eight more bodies from around one hard-hit village, said Waluyo Rahardjo, who works for the search and rescue agency.

The Associated Press reports:

Ash has continuously shot out of the crater since it roared to life Oct. 26, occasionally canceling international flights into and out of Jakarta, hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the volcano’s west. After the output slowed overnight, an advisory from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Darwin, Australia, showed the ash patch was well clear of the capital. The airport in Yogyakarta, at the foot of the mountain, however, remained closed.

Officials warned residents that less ash does not mean the volcano is finished.

“The activity of Merapi is still high, but the intensity of eruptions is reducing now. But people still should be careful. Merapi is still on high alert,” said Surano, a state volcanologist who uses only one name.

While officials struggle to persuade hundreds of thousands of people who live on the volcano’s fertile slopes not to return to their homes, a new kind of evacuee has been seen in recent days. Villagers checking on their homes and crops have seen Javan leopards — who live in a national park near the crater — heading down the mountain.

The cats likely feel the continuing tremors, said Tri Prasetyo, who runs the park, and are seeking safer ground. It’s also possible that prey is scarce in areas scorched by searing gases.

Aceng , a Java leopard, released back into the wild. Credit IAR

The Javan leopard — a subspecies of the cat only found on the island of Java — is critically endangered, with no more than 250 left in the wild. Some put the total population as low as 50.

Joko Tirtono, the manager of a zoo in Yogyakarta, said zoo keepers are now searching villages where the leopards have been spotted and laying traps in which they hope to capture the cats alive.


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