The Great Cave of Niah in an important Middle Paleolithic] archaeological site in Borneo, and part of the Southern Disperal Route argument. Niah Cave is located on the north side of the island of Borneo, inland from the South China Sea some 12 kilometers. Excavated between 1954 and 1967 by Tom and Barbara Harrisson, the site included the discovery of the 'Deep Skull', an anatomically modern human skull directly dated to approximately 42,000 years ago and buried some 1.6 meters below the modern surface.
Niah Cave was reopened recently by the Niah Cave Project at the Sarawak Museum and the Universities of Adelaide and Leicester. These excavations have concentrated on clarifying the quite early date, and identifying the environmental habitat and changes defined in the long period of occupation. Results indicate that the cave was likely first occupied beginning perhaps as long ago as 52,000 years. Evidence includes charcoal, debitage and cut-marked bone at this period, exhibiting a complex set of foraging for tubers and possible fish and mammal-trapping and butchering. And, on the basis of the "Deep Skull" and related stratigraphy, the occupation is likely to represent the behaviors of anatomically modern humans.
The level with which the 'Deep Skull' is associated has been definitively dated to ca 40-44,000 years ago, making it the oldest established presence of anatomically modern humans outside of Africa. However, the behaviors exhibited in the assemblage are one of complex foraging behaviors with a fairly crude tool capability, rather than "behaviorally modern" suite of blade tools and parietal art predicted by the Howiesons Poort tradition -- or the European Aurignacian, for that matter.
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