The Liang Bua faunal remains: a 95 k.yr. sequence from Flores, East Indonesia
Excavations at Liang Bua, a limestone cave on the island of Flores, East Indonesia, have yielded a well-dated archaeological and faunal sequence spanning the last 95 k.yr., major climatic fluctuations, and two human species – H. floresiensis from 95 to 17 k.yr. 1, and modern humans from 11 k.yr. to the present. The faunal assemblage comprises well-preserved mammal, bird, reptile and mollusc remains, including examples of island gigantism in small mammals and the dwarfing of large taxa. Together with evidence from Early-Middle Pleistocene sites in the Soa Basin, it confirms the long-term isolation, impoverishment, and phylogenetic continuity of the Flores faunal community. The accumulation of Stegodon and Komodo dragon remains at the site in the Pleistocene is attributed to Homo floresiensis, while predatory birds, including an extinct species of owl, were largely responsible for the accumulation of the small vertebrates. The disappearance from the sequence of the two large-bodied, endemic mammals, Stegodon florensis insularis and Homo floresiensis, was associated with a volcanic eruption at 17 ka and precedes the earliest evidence for modern humans, who initiated use of mollusc and shell working, and began to introduce a range of exotic animals to the island. Faunal introductions during the Holocene included the Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis) at about 7 ka, followed by the Eurasian pig (Sus scrofa), Long-tailed macaque, Javanese porcupine, and Masked palm civet at about 4 ka, and cattle, deer, and horse - possibly by the Portuguese within historic times. The Holocene sequence at the site also documents local faunal extinctions - a result of accelerating human population growth, habitat loss, and over-exploitation.