Cookie Consent by Cookie Consent by TermsFeed
 
Bradshaw Foundation Archaeology News
Bradshaw Foundation Archaeology News
Bradshaw Foundation Archaeology News
Bradshaw Foundation - Latest News
Sulawesi cave reveals unknown human lineage
Thursday 26 August 2021

An article by science reporter Belinda Smith on abc.net.au - DNA from 7,300-year-old skeleton Bessé' found in Sulawesi cave uncovers mysterious human lineage - reports on a 7,300-year-old skeleton unearthed from a cave in south Sulawesi, the DNA of which contained genetic hints of an as-yet-unknown Asian population.

DNA skeleton Bessé' Sulawesi cave human lineage Indonesia Australia genetic tools paintings
The cave in which this skeleton was found (left) was earmarked for development as a water park. The skull was found crushed (right) but the archaeologists suspect this happened after Bessé' died. Images: University of Hasanuddin.

Curled up in the bottom of a shallow, oval-shaped pit, legs hugged to her chest, a young woman was laid to rest on the island of Sulawesi. Members of her hunter-gatherer culture, the Toaleans, filled in the grave, and there she remained undisturbed for more than 7,000 years — until she was unearthed by Indonesian archaeologists in 2015.

Article continues below
Article continues

Nicknamed Bessé' after a south Sulawesi royal naming custom, she was found in a high-ceilinged limestone cavern named Leang Panninge, or "Bat Cave", and unveiled today in the journal Nature. Her skeleton provided the first ancient human DNA from what is considered the early migration gateway to Australia — and harboured tantalising signs of a Asian population we didn't know existed until now.

DNA skeleton Bessé' Sulawesi cave human lineage Indonesia Australia genetic tools paintings
Leang Panninge is on the southern part of Sulawesi. Thousands of years ago, many of today's islands were connected by land. Image: Kim Newman

It appears this mysterious group made their way into southern Sulawesi after the first people arrived in Papua New Guinea and Australia, says archaeologist and study co-author Adam Brumm from Griffith University.

The earliest evidence for human occupation in what is now Australia is 65,000 years old, yet the picture of exactly when and how humans migrated over the millennia is still not clear. Most archaeologists are confident that the first inhabitants made their way through a series of South-East Asian islands collectively known as Wallacea.

Thousands of years ago, sea levels were far lower than they are today. This meant islands like Borneo, Sumatra and Java were connected by land, and Australia and Papua New Guinea were a single landmass called Sahul. It's thought humans could have reached Sahul in a few ways, says University of Adelaide evolutionary biologist Bastien Llamas, who was not involved with the study. For instance, one route extended from Java to Timor, then across the ocean to reach Sahul, while another winded its way from Sumatra to what is now the southern ends of Borneo and Sulawesi, then involved island-hopping to Sahul.

And archaeologists have found some signs of human inhabitants throughout the region from around the time they think humans migrated through South-East Asia. Professor Brumm and colleagues previously found paintings of pigs, in a cave not far from Leang Panninge, were at least 45,500 years old. Other signs of human occupation in Wallacea, such as stone tools, have been found dating back to around that time too.

The Toaleans were a more recent population. They lived a fairly secluded existence as hunter-gatherers in the southern Sulawesi forests from around 8,000 to 1,500 years ago, Professor Brumm said. Professor Brumm suspected a wave of migration went through Sulawesi, and some people stayed on while others kept going to eventually reach Sahul.

But the genome of Bessé' revealed she also descended from an as yet unknown population that originated in Asia — a population that may still have descendants today, but could also have died out. People who live in Sulawesi today mostly descend from Neolithic farmers who moved into the region from Taiwan about 3,500 years ago. None had ancestry resembling Bessé''s.

click here for the full article

Click here for more on the cave art of Sulawesi

Comment
Archaeology
Sulawesi cave reveals unknown human lineage
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 26 August 2021
Cave lion cub found
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 16 August 2021
Chevron carving thought to be by Neanderthals
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 06 July 2021
New project off Western Australia's coast
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 06 May 2021
Oldest known burial site in Africa
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 06 May 2021
Who made this early human art?
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 16 March 2021
More discoveries as Stonehenge tunnel looms
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 09 February 2021
Stone Age elk tooth pendants
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 18 January 2021
What next for the Juukan Gorge caves?
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 09 December 2020
The Amesbury Archer
by Bradshaw Foundation
Friday 13 November 2020
Six Iconic Ancient Artifacts
by Bradshaw Foundation
Friday 23 October 2020
Neanderthal tools found on Danish island
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 22 October 2020
Dolní Věstonice in Central Europe
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 14 October 2020
Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, death and art
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 26 August 2020
Stone Age rope weaving
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 04 August 2020
Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 23 July 2020
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation
on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation on social media for news & updates
Follow the Bradshaw Foundation
on social media for news & updates
If you have enjoyed visiting this website
please consider adding a link © Bradshaw Foundation
 
 
ROCK ART NETWORK
Rock Art Network Bradshaw Foundation Getty Conservation Institute
ARCHAEOLOGY
Sulawesi cave reveals unknown human lineage
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 26 August 2021
Cave lion cub found
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 16 August 2021
Chevron carving thought to be by Neanderthals
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 06 July 2021
New project off Western Australia's coast
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 06 May 2021
Oldest known burial site in Africa
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 06 May 2021
Who made this early human art?
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 16 March 2021
More discoveries as Stonehenge tunnel looms
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 09 February 2021
Stone Age elk tooth pendants
by Bradshaw Foundation
Monday 18 January 2021
What next for the Juukan Gorge caves?
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 09 December 2020
The Amesbury Archer
by Bradshaw Foundation
Friday 13 November 2020
Six Iconic Ancient Artifacts
by Bradshaw Foundation
Friday 23 October 2020
Neanderthal tools found on Danish island
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 22 October 2020
Dolní Věstonice in Central Europe
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 14 October 2020
Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, death and art
by Bradshaw Foundation
Wednesday 26 August 2020
Stone Age rope weaving
by Bradshaw Foundation
Tuesday 04 August 2020
Earliest evidence for humans in the Americas
by Bradshaw Foundation
Thursday 23 July 2020
Bradshaw Foundation Donate Friends
Support our work & become a
Friend of the Foundation
 
 
Bradshaw Foundation Facebook
 
Bradshaw Foundation YouTube
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store
Bradshaw Foundation iShop Shop Store