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Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo floresiensis

Abstract

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.

1, Kobatuwa; 2, Mata Menge; 3, Lembahmenge; 4, Boa Lesa; 5, Ola Bula; 6, Tangi Talo; 7, Wolo Milo; 8, Wolokeo; 9, Sagala; 10, Dozu Dhalu; 11, Kopowatu; 12, Ngamapa; 13, Pauphadhi; 14, Deko Weko; 15, Malahuma. The dashed areas indicated with a V represent volcanoes. The broken line indicates the approximate boundary of the Ae Sissa River drainage basin.

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Figure 2: Stratigraphic profiles and excavations at Mata Menge.
Figure 3: Stone artefacts from Mata Menge.
Figure 4: Perforators from Mata Menge and Liang Bua.
Figure 5: Scar dimensions on Mata Menge and Liang Bua cores.

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Acknowledgements

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 35. R.F. conducted the microwear analysis.

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Correspondence to Adam Brumm or Mark W. Moore.

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Supplementary Notes

This file contains Supplementary Figures and Legends, Supplementary Table and Supplementary Methods. This file contains information about the Mata Menge excavations and the stratigraphic context of the faunal assemblage. Further technological and statistical data are also provided, along with the methods and results of the microwear study. (PDF 1109 kb)

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Brumm, A., Aziz, F., van den Bergh, G. et al. Early stone technology on Flores and its implications for Homo floresiensis. Nature 441, 624–628 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04618

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