‘Turning point’: Archeologist says of Neolithic skeletons found in Vietnam cave

By Bich Ngoc   September 19, 2018 | 01:34 pm GMT+7
‘Turning point’: Archeologist says of Neolithic skeletons found in Vietnam cave
Professor Nguyen Lan Cuong of the Vietnam Archaeology Association holds the skull of a four-year-old as he talks about a volcanic cave excavation on Tuesday. Photo by Bich Ngoc

Vietnamese archeologists have found human remains in a volcanic cave for the first time anywhere in the world.

The Vietnam Museum of Nature made the announcement of the finding Tuesday following excavations in cave C6-1 in Krong No District, the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong.

Scientists and others present got the opportunity to listen to the personal experiences of the archeologists who found the skeletons of ancient humans who lived 4,000 to 7,000 years ago.

Holding a freshly excavated skull, Associate Professor Nguyen Lan Cuong of the Vietnam Archaeology Association said he had first stumbled upon something which he thought were human leg bones, but they turned out to be from a deer.

“I was very sad because that made me less hopeful about finding remains of prehistoric humans in the Central Highlands. Scientists have been trying to find them in volcanic caves for hundreds of years but to no avail.

"On March 18, when washing artifacts found in cave C6-1, my eyes lit up when I discovered stone tools, animal bones, seashells, and a human wisdom tooth.”

He then sent a picture of the tooth to his friends Prof. Hirofumi Matsumura in Japan and Prof. Hoang Tu Hung, former director of the Institute of Dentistry at the HCMC University of Medicine and Pharmacy.

The two called back within a couple of hours: it was a human tooth.

He was thrilled. It had taken years of exploration, but one tooth was enough to indicate the presence of humans in the Central Highlands.

A few days later he discovered more fragments from the femur and tibia of an adult. The excavation team also found a child’s skeleton.

"The positions of the bones showed that the dead were buried sitting with both legs placed next to their chest,” Cuong said.

Neolithic girl found in a cave in the Central Highlands, the first time in the world human remains have been found in volcanic mountains. Photo by Bich Ngoc

Neolithic child found in a cave in the Central Highlands, the first time in the world human remains have been found in volcanic mountains. Photo by Bich Ngoc

Archeologists have gone through the cave with a fine toothcomb, and have found three tombstones and the remains of at least 10 individuals: five infants, an adolescent and four adults.

"The discovery of prehistoric remains in the volcanic system in the Central Highlands is a turning point in ancient anthropology and a great achievement for Vietnamese scientists," an exultant Cuong said.

The results have been shared with a number of scientists in Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the U.S. and other countries, and they all agreed there has never been a discovery of this kind before in a volcanic mountain, he said.

To pinpoint the identity of the ancients, however, archaeologists need to do further excavation to find adult skulls, he said.

It should not be difficult since they have already found adult bones, he added hopefully.

C6-1 has so far given up tens of thousands of relics at a depth of up to 1.85 meters in eight distinct layers. Not only did archeologists discover mollusks, the first evidence connecting prehistoric humans in the Central Highlands with the sea, but also pottery shards, stone tools and animal teeth.

 
 
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