Ancient humans lived in East Timor 44,000 years ago, archaeologists find | History news

Along with neighboring Indonesia and Australia, the region is home to some of the oldest evidence of human life.

Stone artifacts and animal bones discovered in a deep cave in North East Timor offer new insights into the places where ancient humans lived 35,000 years before the Egyptians built the first pyramids.

Archaeologists from Australian and United Kingdom universities say thousands of stone artefacts and animal bones have been found in a cave known as the Laili rock shelter in northern East Timor, where ancient humans lived around 44,000 years ago.

The researchers say the deep sediment, dated between 59,000 and 54,000 years ago, from the cave and elsewhere in East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, revealed a „signature of arrival”. 44,000 years ago.

„Unlike other sites in the region, the Laili rock shelter preserved deep sediments, with no clear signs of human occupation among them,” said Shimona Kiely, an archaeologist and paleontologist at the Australian National University who was involved in the research.

Sue O’Connor, Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University’s School of Culture, History and Language, examines a polished stone ax head found on the island of Timor. [Courtesy of Jamie Kidston, ANU]

Australian National University Distinguished Professor and archaeologist Sue O’Connor said the newly studied sediments provided insights into when humans arrived on Timor.

„The absence of humans on the island of Timor by at least 50,000 years ago is significant because it indicates that these early humans arrived on the island later than previously believed,” O’Connor said.

Researchers from the Australian National University (ANU), Flinders University, University College London (UCL) and the ARC Center of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage published their findings in the journal. Natural communication This week.

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The new discovery is the latest in a region known for some of the oldest archaeological finds in the country, along with neighboring Indonesia and Australia, providing insights into the lives of ancient humans.

An area full of ancient artefacts

A man holds a camera in a dark cave
Researchers say the saffron painting of a pig was painted at least 45,500 years ago at Liang Detangnge, Sulawesi, Indonesia. [File: Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Griffith University via AFP]

The island of Timor lies south of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where researchers believe a 45,500-year-old life-size saffron painting of a pig may be the oldest rock painting on Earth.

Basran Burhan, an Indonesian archaeologist from South Sulawesi and current Griffith PhD student who led the survey that found the painting, said of the discovery in 2021 that „humans have been hunting Sulawesi pigs for tens of thousands of years”.

„These pigs were the most commonly depicted animals in the island’s Ice Age rock art, having long been considered food and a center of creative thought and artistic expression,” Burhan said.

In another Sulawesi cave, the team discovered a 44,000-year-old painting depicting half-human hunters using spears and ropes to chase down wild animals. The discovery of that painting was named one of the top 10 scientific breakthroughs of 2020 by the journal Science.

Ancient cultural heritage at risk?

Many of the oldest cultural heritage sites on Earth are found in East Timor and Australia south of Indonesia.

Aboriginal people living in Australia have documented one of the oldest continuous living cultures on Earth Archaeological evidence At least 60,000 years ago.

At Murukuga in northwestern Australia, an estimated one million petroglyphs include rock carvings dating back 40,000 years.

The carvings include drawings of now-extinct animals, including talon-tailed wallabies and thylacines, also known as Tasmanian tigers.

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The Murukuga Cultural Landscape was formally nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status earlier this year.


„Murujuga is a deeply layered landscape where the ancestors of Ngarda-Ngarli have lived and thrived for thousands of generations,” said Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation CEO Kim Wood.

„Each part of this landscape is inscribed with the history, culture and mythology that governed Noora. [the word for ‘country’ in Indigenous Western desert languages] 50,000 years,” Wood said.

But some traditional owners have expressed concern that Murukuga could become the latest Aboriginal heritage site in Australia.

Although the petroglyphs can be found protected on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, the Western Australian state government last year scrapped new cultural heritage laws introduced to protect cultural heritage sites after the destruction of a 46,000-year-old cultural heritage site at Jugan Gorge. 1,075 km (668 mi) north of Perth

The destruction of the Juukan Gorge shelters in May 2020 sparked widespread outrage, prompted the resignation of Rio Tinto’s CEO and an Australian government report titled Never Again, which recommended the mining company ban mining in the area and restore sacred sites.

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