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This cave excavation story is fascinating

A cave interior with several people standing on a ledge in the distance. There is a light shining along one side.
Fabrice Demeter

I have a kid about to pursue an anthropology major, so I’ve been hyper focused on all things anthropology lately. The field encompasses such a vast range of study and research and discovery, and this story is a perfect example. U of I Anthropology Professor Laura Shackelford, alongside Fabrice Demeter from University of Copehagen and a team of researchers, has invested 15 years of work in Tam Pa Ling cave in northeastern Laos. That work has revealed the existence of humans in that area for more that 70,000 years. From the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences:

In 2019, the team had excavated as far as they could in the cave, reaching bedrock about 23 feet (7 meters) below the surface. The excavations yielded dozens of animal bones and many fragments of human skeletal remains. The deepest human bone recovered – a partial tibia – was resting on bedrock near the bottom of the trench. Analyses of sediments taken not far above this bone indicate the soil was deposited there between 67,000 and 90,000 years ago.

Years and years of floods had washed the sediment and bone into the cave. There were also two skull pieces found at the site.

I stumbled upon this story just a couple of days after watching the 2005 horror movies The Descent, in which six women go on this cave adventure in North Carolina and end up being attacked by humanoid type predatory creatures that have adapted to living in caves. It sort of turned me off of wanting to go into a cave for a while. But what these researchers are doing is super cool, and it’s probably not at all scary.

Their findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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