PENANG, 29 Jan.- The ‘Out of Africa’ theory that suggested fossils of early man were only found in Georgia roughly 1.7 to 1.8 million years ago, may have to be rewritten with the latest discovery by Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) archaelogists.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar Saidin, Director of the Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia (PPAM) USM said that further studies carried out at the excavation site at Bukit Bunuh, Lenggong, Perak revealed that early man had existed in Southeast Asia, specifically in Malaysia more than 1.8 million years ago.
The fresh evidence has now become the oldest recorded data of prehistoric man in Southeast Asia compared to other discoveries of prehistoric sites in China, Indonesia and others.
He said that this was based on the discovery of stone artefacts such as handaxes and chopping tools dated at 1.83 million years ago.
“These artefacts were found embedded in suevite rock, which formed as a result of the impact of meteorites. Detailed studies were carried out to confirm the age of these rocks,” he said.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar said this at a press conference at PPAM, USM today. Also present at the press conference was the Vice-Chancellor of USM, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak.
According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar, the handaxe, made from a type of quartz found in river beds, is the first of its kind found in this region, making it the oldest artefact found in the world.
“Up till now, the oldest artefact in the world, dated at 1.6 million years, was discovered in the Olduvaigeorge region, Georgia.
He added that the rocks were dated using the Fission Track Dating Method at the Geochronology Japan Inc. Dating Laboratory, Japan and were found to be around 1.83 million years old.
“The dating of the rocks provides fresh evidence and dispels the belief that early man lived only at the Sangiran site, Jawa, Indonesia from 1.2 to 1.7 million years ago.
“The fresh evidence also suggests that early man had lived in Malaysia before migrating to Jawa as a result of the destruction of Bukit Bunuh from the impact of meteorites,” he said.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar also said that the study has, for the first time, revealed chronometric evidence as to the existence of the handaxe in this region since 1.8 million years ago. It clearly rejects the Movius Line theory which states that the hand axe never existed in this region.
Besides that, he said that the discovery suggests that the ‘Out of Africa’ theory, based on the discovery of Dmanisi Man in Georgia, ought to be earlier than 1.8 million years.
“It reveals that 'homoerectus' were also to be found in Southeast Asia,” he added.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mokhtar said that his team will focus on uncovering evidence of human fossils to further strengthen the latest discovery.
“We have confirmed the existence of stone artefacts and the next step is to focus on finding human fossils such as teeth, bones and others,” he said.
Prior to this, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli, while chairing the press conference, said that the latest discovery can provide new information and change our understanding on the movement patterns of prehistoric man in this region.
He went on to say that this is a very important discovery for Malaysia, particularly USM, in understanding and studying the origins of man and their settlements.
“This discovery is a very important piece of data to be used in the field of archaelogy and is in line with the university’s objectives, that is, to expand the field of knowledge," he said.
Photo: Mohd. Fairus Md. Isa
Bukit Bunuh Site, Lenggong, Perak
1. Date found: August 2000
2. Site type: Open site
3. Location: Longitude (100° 58’ 05” E) and Latitude (5°04’05” N)
4. Early excavation:
From 2001 to 2003.
Excavation was undertaken in the southern area of Bukit Bunuh. Palaeolithic cultural layers in a form of a stone tool workshop were discovered. OSL (Optically Simulated Luminescence) dating method gave a date circa 40,000 years ago. Handaxe that was made out of suevite has also been discovered. Meteorite impact had caused the native stone to melt and formed a new stone called suevite. This impact has been substantiated by the presence of suevite, crossed- lamellar microstructure on quartz, physical anomaly evidence and geomorphology evidence of an impact crater. The distribution of suevite is approximately 3-4 km².
2000-2006 research contributions:
• Evidence of Palaeolithic culture, dated back to 40,000 years ago.
• New geological unit – suevite as an evidence of meteorite impact circa 1.74 – 1.83 million years ago.
• The discovery of in situ handaxe, with a chronometric dating of 40,000 years ago.
5. 2007-2008 Research:
• The discovery of stone tools artefacts such as handaxe and flake tools inside of suevite, suggesting that there was a human being in Bukit Bunuh area before meteorite impact, circa 1.74 – 1.83 years ago.
For more information, please contact
The Director of The Centre for Archaeological Research Malaysia (CARM)
Associate Professor Dr. Mokhtar Saidin
Mobile Telephone: 013-439 0704