Researchers find Deep Skull did not belong to Indigenous Australians

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Researchers find Deep Skull did not belong to Indigenous Australians

A new study into 37,000-year old remains of the "Deep Skull" has found that it did not belong to Indigenous Australians, as believed before, and that the skull appears more likely to be of an older woman than of a teenage boy. The skull is oldest that modern human discovered in island South-East Asia.

The study was conducted by UNSW Australia Associate Professor Darren Curnoe and is the most detailed investigation of the ancient cranium specimen since it was found in Niah Cave in Sarawak in 1958. Associate Professor Curnoe is a Director of the UNSW Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre (PANGEA).

“Our analysis overturns long-held views about the early history of this region. We've found that these very ancient remains most closely resemble some of the Indigenous people of Borneo today, rather than Indigenous people from Australia”, said Curnoe. The study by Curnoe and researchers from the Sarawak Museum Department and Griffith University was published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

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Tom Harrisson of the Sarawak Museum discovered the Deep Skull during excavations at the West Mouth of the great Niah Cave complex. Prominent British anthropologist Don Brothwell examined the Deep Skull. In 1960, Brothwell found that it belonged to an adolescent male closely related to a population of early modern humans or even ancestral to Indigenous Australians, in particular Tasmanians. Brothwell's ideas have been largely untested, so researchers wanted to know whether they were correct.

According to a report in Daily Mail by Richard Gray, "A 37,000-year-old skull discovered nearly 50 years ago is threatening to rewrite the history of how early modern humans spread from through the Pacific and into Australia."

The skull fragments are thought to belong to one of the first members of our species to arrive on the tropical island of Borneo – long believed to be related to Aboriginal Australians. But a new study of the bones, which belong to an individual nicknamed Deep Skull by anthropologists, has revealed they may actually belong to another group of modern humans.

Scientists have found these prehistoric humans have delicate features and small body sizes similar to indigenous populations found in Borneo today, such as the Dayak. It had originally been through these groups arrived with waves of farmers who spread across the island from China around 3,000 years ago.

" A new study of the 37,000-year old remains of the "Deep Skull" - the oldest modern human discovered in island South-East Asia - has revealed this ancient person was not related to Indigenous Australians, as had been originally thought," according to a news report published by Eurek Alert.

The research, led by UNSW Australia Associate Professor Darren Curnoe, represents the most detailed investigation of the ancient cranium specimen since it was found in Niah Cave in Sarawak in 1958.

"Our analysis overturns long-held views about the early history of this region," says Associate Professor Curnoe, Director of the UNSW Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre (PANGEA).

"We've found that these very ancient remains most closely resemble some of the Indigenous people of Borneo today, with their delicately built features and small body size, rather than Indigenous people from Australia."

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