Cave Sites as Windows to Prehistory

Archaeological Studies Program, University of the Philippines

Caves have been important features in understanding and reconstructing the past, particularly during the prehistoric period. Caves have been used by early humans in a variety of ways such as temporary shelters, burial, and even ritual sites. Sites like Callao Cave in the Philippines, Liang Bua in Indonesia, and Tam Pa Ling in Laos have been particularly significant as one of the main sources of evidence for human colonisation and habitation by anatomically modern humans and our hominin ancestors during the Palaeolithic period. Good states of preservation have often resulted in the persistence of accumulations of organic remains, in particular large and small animal bones that have provided important interpretive frameworks for understanding hunting and gathering activities, and allowing for biostratigraphic and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. However, archaeologists also encounter a number of challenges when working in caves. These can be archaeological problems such as accurate chronometric dating and/or site formation processes, others are a result of human impacts on the archaeological record like vandalism. This session will tackle recent archaeological work on caves in the Indo-Pacific region and will include presentations addressing current archaeological research, new approaches to cave archaeology, and issues and problems encountered when excavating caves.

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