66 Ancient Skeletons: What Did Indonesian Researchers Learn From Discovery In Sumatra?

By iScienceTimes Staff on April 23, 2013 12:55 PM EDT

Truman Simanjuntak
Simanjuntak holds an exact replica of an ancient stone hand axe excavated from East Java. (Photo: uow.edu)

Researchers in Indonesia have reportedly discovered 66 ancient skeletons in a cave in Sumatra called Harimaru or Tiger Cave, according to reports.

The 66 ancient skeletons were revealed on April 12 at the University of Wollongong in Australia by Prof. Truman Simanjuntak, from the Jakarta-based Indonesian National Center for Archaeology, who visited the university a couple of weeks ago to address researchers at the Center for Archaeological Science (CAS).

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"Sixty-six is very strange," said Simanjuntak in a statement of the 3,000-year-old remains. "It means that this cave was occupied intensely by humans and they continued to occupy it for a very, very long time."

Simanjuntak added that he and his colleagues have never before found 66 ancient skeletons in a single cave.

Tiger Cave, which also contains chicken, dog and pig remains, was occupied by Indonesia's first farmers alongside other nearby limestone caverns thousands of years ago. The farmers used the caves to bury their dead, which explain the 3,000-year-old cemetery of 66 ancient skeletons unearthed by Simanjuntak's team.

The 66 ancient skeletons that were once ancient farmers also manufactured tools in the caves and apparently made art. Simanjuntak also said that although Tiger Cave is only partially excavated, it contains the first evidence of rock art from Sumatra.

The oldest rock art known is in France and dates back 37,000 years.

"There are still occupation traces deeper and deeper in the cave, where we have not excavated yet," he said. "So it means the cave is very promising."

The dates of the discoveries, including the 66 ancient skeletons, link the cave's occupation to a time when the Earth's entire population was only about 50 million. Simanjuntak pointed out that, at that point in history, the Zhou dynasty ruled China, and ancient Egypt's New Kingdom era, during which Tutankamun reigned, was nearing its end.

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