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Thread: Deep Skull from Niah Cave and the Pleistocene Peopling of Southeast Asia

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Deep Skull from Niah Cave and the Pleistocene Peopling of Southeast Asia

    This is an interesting one. The Deep Skull from Niah Cave has been restudied and turns out to be related to either Dayaks or Philippine Negritos. Comparing twenty states the Niah cranium shares only three with Australians, five with Southeast Asians and six with continental East Asians.


    http://journal.frontiersin.org/artic...016.00075/full

    The Deep Skull from Niah Cave in Sarawak (Malaysia) is the oldest anatomically modern human recovered from island Southeast Asia. For more than 50 years its relevance to tracing the prehistory of the region has been controversial. The most widely held view, originating with Brothwell's 1960 description and analysis, is that the Niah individual is related to Indigenous Australians. Here we undertake a new assessment of the Deep Skull and consider its bearing on this question. In doing so, we provide a new and comprehensive description of the cranium including a reassessment of its ontogenetic age, sex, morphology, and affinities. We conclude that this individual was most likely to have been of advanced age and female, rather than an adolescent male as originally proposed. The morphological evidence strongly suggests that the Deep Skull samples the earliest modern humans to have settled Borneo, most likely originating on mainland East Asia. We also show that the affinities of the specimen are most likely to be with the contemporary indigenous people of Borneo, although, similarities to the population sometimes referred to as Philippine Negritos cannot be excluded. Finally, our research suggests that the widely supported “two-layer” hypothesis for the Pleistocene peopling of East/Southeast Asia is unlikely to apply to the earliest inhabitants of Borneo, in-line with the picture emerging from genetic studies of the contemporary people from the region.

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    Brothwell actually wrote a college text for anthropologists which was to be used in the "bone course". I know this because I took this course and his book, titled Digging Up the Bones was our textbook. Therefore, when these guys take on Brothwell, they are spitting against the wind from the start, taking on a real heavyweight. But, these guys are experts in the paleoanthropology of that part of the world and have done a very careful job in their argument against Brothwell, his analysis of the bones and his interpretation.

    In 1960 anthropology in the Australian sphere was dominated by Joseph Birdsell. He thought of the Aborigines as comprised of several sub-races inhabiting the continent which were not all that closely related. The Tasmanians were very often thought of as somewhat separate from the Aborigines since their skull form was rounder, they were short and had very frizzy hair like Melanesians. If fact they looked like Melanesians.

    This is not the current view of the Austral world and that change in view is reflected in this article.

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    Senior Member Catterick's Avatar
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    Though I don't believe the Tasmanians were Negritos I take issue with anthros who claim their distinctiveness was debunked by comparison with nearby mainland Aboriginals. Early observers noted certain nearby southeast Australians resembled Tasmanians more than typical Aboriginals.

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