sign in a cave in Laos

30 September 2021

Human jaw bone found in Maros cave, Sulawesi

The rock art in the caves in Maros, south Sulawesi, have been widely documented over the years. Now we have news that a Pleistocene human jawbone has been found in Leang Bulu Bettue cave. This is the first indication of humans during that time period. The jawbone, complete with teeth, has been dated to between 25,000 and 16,000 years old. The Australian archaeologists haven't been able to determine the sex or age of the person. The results were published in PLoS One, Sept 29 2021

Additional news about another find - 

In August a different team announced the recovery of genetic material from a 7,000-year-old skeleton from Leang Panninge in Maros. The skeleton was found in 2015 and was the first relatively complete human burial from the "Toalean" society. It was deduced the skeleton was a 17–18-year-old female with a broadly Australo-Melanesian affinity. She was buried in a flexed position, probably 7300-7200 years BP . The extracted DNA shows the remains belonged to a woman who was 18 years old when she died during the Holocene. Article published in Nature, 25 August 2021.

So the jawbone is a lot older than the 7000 year old skeleton. Researchers will continue digging to try and find more bones. The new find pushes back Homo sapiens’ existence on Sulawesi by thousands of years. 


24 September 2021

Cave swiftlets found dead in Phattalung caves

 An article in The Thaiger 22 Sept 2021 "5 billion baht loss as birds’ nest producing swiftlets found dead".

Apparently over 1 million birds have been found dead, in 107 caves in Phattalung's 7 islands.

The article says :

"Phatthalung authorities have requested help from the Department of Special Investigation to investigate the death of birds. These were no ordinary birds though; they were swiftlets, the birds that produce the saliva that make birds’ nest, prized as a health delicacy. And it wasn’t a few birds, it was over a million birds found dead in caves where Siamnest company has the authority to collect their birds’ nest.

And the financial loss of these birds and the birds’ nests they produce has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

The company has permission to access 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands and they sent their collection teams to gather the birds’ nest between September 9 to September 17. When they arrived to the last cave, they discovered the remains of more than 1 million birds instead of the nests they were tasked with collecting.

The team found the remains of a fire and various trash strewn about including shoes and plastic bottles. After Siamnest involved the Phatthalung authorities, the Royal Thai Police joined the investigation of the mass death of the swiftlet birds.

Unlike most birds that make nests out of twigs or similar materials, swiftlets make theirs completely out of their unique saliva which solidifies to form the nest. These saliva nests are considered a delicacy, especially in Asian regions, for it’s believed healing powers. Birds’ nest soup is often made by steaming and soaking the saliva nests.

The nests are said to help with kidney health, phlegm reduction and are desired as an aphrodisiac as well. Harvesting companies have become big businesses due to the high price the unique birds’ nest can fetch, with companies like Siamnest getting exclusive access to areas the swiftlets nest or even creating artificial sanctuaries for swiftlets to nest.

Of note, disgraced police officer Pol Col Thitisan “Jo Ferrari” Utthanaphon, whose shocking wealth was revealed upon his arrest for suffocating a suspect in custody, was said to have made part of his fortune by trading birds’ nest.


The source of the above Thaiger article is The Nation , which has lots of photos:

Horrifying Phatthalung bird massacre costs Siamnest THB5-bn in lost revenue

A Royal Thai Police (RTP) team visited Phatthalung province on Monday to investigate the case of missing birds’ nests and the mass killing of swiftlets.

Siamnest company, which has the concession for collecting bird’s nests from the 107 caves in Phatthalung’s seven islands, sent its teams off to collect nests from September 9 to 17.

However, when the collectors arrived at the last cave, they found no nests but instead, the carcasses of more than a million birds, the remains of a fire and trash including plastic bottles and shoes.

The damage from this bird massacre has been estimated at about 5 billion baht.

Phatthalung authorities, meanwhile, have contacted the Department of Special Investigation to see if they will consider taking on the case.


I've been to several caves in Phattalung province mainland, but not islands -  see labels on the right.