sábado, 2 de enero de 2016

Lab tests of fossils rewrite Taiwan prehistory

Two fossilized parietal bone fragments (upper left and upper middle) of Tsuo Chen Man stored at National Taiwan Museum have been re-dated to 3,000 and 250 years ago by laboratories in Australia and the U.S. this year. (Courtesy of NTM)

The results of laboratory tests on two fossils from what some claimed as the second oldest prehistoric human relics in Taiwan were released Dec. 23 by Taipei City-based National Taiwan Museum, forcing experts to reconsider their archaeological perspectives of Taiwan.

The fossils were originally believed to be from early Homo sapiens of the late Pleistocene era, who are known collectively as Tsuo Chen Man living between 20,000 and 30,000 years ago. But the latest tests by Australian National University and Beta Analytic Inc. in the U.S. re-dated two of the six fossils stored at NTM to around 3,000 and 250 years ago, respectively.

According to Liu Yi-chang, a research fellow in history and philology at Academia Sinica, the results are not overly surprising. “The fossilized parietal bone fragments and molars from different bodies were first found in a riverbed in Tainan City in 1970, and have been the source of much dispute as they were not excavated from geological layers.”

Echoing Liu’s remarks, Chiu Hung-lin, assistant professor in the Institute of Anthropology at Hsinchu City-based Tsing Hua University, said advances in identification techniques helped dig out the truth. “The radiocarbon dating method is more precise than the fluorine and manganese method originally used by Japanese scholar Nobuo Shimoda.”

With the new information, academics are debating who should now be considered the second oldest inhabitants of Taiwan. The Changpin Culture is one possible contender as these people lived between 5,000 and 30,000 years ago, according to the National Museum of Prehistory.

Discovered in 1968 in Taitung County, artifacts found in Bashian Cave reveal traces of human activity. But some scholars are not convinced that the items belonged to the Changpin people.

Another possibility is the early Neolithic people of the Tapenkeng Culture dating back 5,000 years. Found in 1990 in Tainan County, dog skeletons, fossilized rice and pottery were discovered at two sites in the Tainan Technology Industrial Park, indicating the presence of an ancient agricultural society.

Meanwhile, according to an article published in the U.S. science journal Nature Communications Jan. 27 this year, the oldest Homo erectus fossil ever found in Taiwan is the mandible known as Penghu 1, which is likely to be between 10,000 and 190,000 years old. (YCH-JG.  Taiwan Today

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