Southeast Asia has a rich and interesting palaeohistory; however it can be incredibly difficult to discern the mechanisms of site formation, depositional history and faunal accumulation. This is in part due to dating complexities and poor preservation potential in tropical environments. Calcareous breccia deposits that accumulate in limestone caves may hold the key to resolving this issue. These deposits are often overlooked as they appear homogenous and are often considered too difficult to work with. Our research develops a method for utilising the breccia potential for establishing the dominant factors responsible for accumulation and preservation of the vertebrate remains within. Fieldwork was undertaken in the Padang Highlands of western Sumatra, in three key cave localities; Lida Ajer, Ngalau Gupin and Ngalau Sampit. Analysis was done using rapid neutron tomographic imaging, micromorphology and a palaeontological review of the excavated faunal assemblages. The results showed that these seemingly homogeneous deposits retain significant geological, sedimentological and fossil evidence that can reveal the chronology of site formation. Understanding the stratigraphical progression of these caves has revealed principal evidence of the original animal community, taphonomic history and palaeoenvironment of each site. This study highlights the potential for analyses of seemingly homogeneous breccia deposits in anthropological and palaeontological studies in the caves of Southeast Asia in the future.

About the presenter

Holly Smith is a British Palaeontologist currently undertaking a PhD at the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University.  She presents this paper along with her co-authors Mike Morley, Joseph Bevitt, Ulf Garbe, Yan Rizal, Jahdi Zaim, Mika Rizki Puspaningrum, Aswan, Agus Trihascaryo, Gilbert J. Price and Julien Louys.


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About Archaeology Working Papers

The Working Papers in Archaeology seminar series provides a forum for dissemination of archaeological research and ideas amongst UQ archaeology students and staff. All students are invited to attend the series and postgraduate students, from honours upwards, are invited to present their research. The aim is to provide opportunities for students, staff and those from outside UQ, to present and discuss their work in an informal environment. It is hoped that anyone interested in current archaeological directions, both within and outside the School and University, will be able to attend and contribute to the series.