In the Soa Basin of central Flores, eastern Indonesia, stratified archaeological sites, including Mata Menge, Boa Lesa and Kobatuwa (Fig. 1), contain stone artefacts associated with the fossilized remains of Stegodon florensis, Komodo dragon, rat and various other taxa. These sites have been dated to 840–700 kyr bp (thousand years before present)1. The authenticity of the Soa Basin artefacts and their provenance have been demonstrated by previous work2,3,4,5,6, but to quell lingering doubts7, here we describe the context, attributes and production modes of 507 artefacts excavated at Mata Menge. We also note specific similarities, and apparent technological continuity, between the Mata Menge stone artefacts and those excavated from Late Pleistocene levels at Liang Bua cave, 50 km to the west. The latter artefacts, dated to between 95–74 and 12 kyr ago8,9, are associated with the remains of a dwarfed descendent of S. florensis, Komodo dragon, rat and a small-bodied hominin species, Homo floresiensis, which had a brain size of about 400 cubic centimetres10,11. The Mata Menge evidence negates claims that stone artefacts associated with H. floresiensis are so complex that they must have been made by modern humans (Homo sapiens)7.
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Excavations at Mata Menge, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant to M.J.M, were undertaken from 26 August to 29 September 2004 and 16 August to 23 September 2005. The work was done under GRDC survey/research permission letter 57/45.04/BMG/2004 to the Governor of NTT Province, Kupang. We received support from the Ngadha Regency Administration and Head of the Bajawa Culture and Tourism Office, I. Yusuf. Other participants included P. M. D. Moi, I. Botha, E. Yan Patriani, S. Sudjarwadi and 20 Ngadha people led by K. Podhi. The Secretary of Desa Mengeruda, G. Leo, provided further support. We also thank Ngaliman and Dadang for preparing the topographic map of the Mata Menge area, and J. Tode Solo for assistance in the field. The Department of Archaeology and Natural History, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University funded A.B. S. O'Connor and D. Boyd are thanked for their support. Author Contributions A.B. conducted the analysis and interpretation of the Mata Menge assemblage. F.A. and G.D.v.d.B. planned and directed the excavations in association with M.J.M. G.D.v.d.B. described the stratigraphy and prepared Fig. 2. D.R.H. was responsible for aspects of the archaeological fieldwork and prepared Fig. 1. I.K. assisted with the palaeontological research. M.W.M. assisted with the Mata Menge analysis, conducted the Liang Bua analysis and prepared Figs 3–5. R.F. conducted the microwear analysis.
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Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory (2012)