Pucung fieldschool 2013

2013 Field school in “PCTS” site, Pucung, Sangiran dome

carefully brushing the surfaceDecember 2013 – January 2014: A field school is organized in PCTS archaeological site on the Sangiran dome near the Pucung hamlet. Joining together, Indonesian from Jakarta, Medan, Palembang, Ambon and Denpassar, Filipino from Manila and Cebu, Thai and Korean students and young researchers, all of them with different training and field of expertise. The aim is to detail the process of an excavation in a World Heritage Site, from its geological context, through its excavation, up to the preservation of both, the collections and the archaeological site.

 The site PCTS is stratigraphically situated in the lower part of the Kabuh series along the Pucung river in the southeat quarter of the Sangiran dome. The study of PCTS site has been launched after the discovery of numerous bola on surface, close from a stratigraphical contact between a clayey and fine ashy deposit and a fluvial sequence.

Th preliminary campaigns have permitted to precise the stratigraphy of the site thanks to 1) the Dayu-Pucung transect and 2) two test pits KI and KII which have allowed to localized and follow the continuity of the archaeological layers regarding the stop in sedimentation and the paleosols recorded in the neighborhood.

For the Dayu-Pucung transect, it appears that between the end of the Lower Pleistocene and the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene (Upper Pucangan series, Grenzbank and Lower Kabuh), the sedimentation has been much more important in the southern part of the dome due to the volcanic activity. The influence of the limestone Kendeng hills is almost absent in Pucung and PCTS.

The palaeontological, palaeoanthropological and archaeological potential of the area is confirmed by numerous isolated discoveries, such as the famous Sangiran 17 hominin skull (Pithecanthopus VIII) discovered in 1969, it is one of the few individual for which the maxillary may be observed. The erosion of some sections within the Kabuh formation has delivered some bolas and polyhedrons in andesite. Finally, it is upstream of the Pucung river, in the lower layers of the Grenzbank, that our colleague Harry Widianto has discovered (in alluvial context) the oldest stone tools known in Sangiran (their age is estimated to be around one million years old).

The Dayu-Pucung transect, eroded by the Pucung river, cuts on a 1km way long, from the Pucangan layers to the Lower Kabuh layers, a major chronological frame for the study of Sangiran dome. Between 1.1 and 0.7 million years, the set-up of the climatic and palaeoenvrionmental conditions that are characteristic of the Middle Pleistocene, the emergence of dry passways on the Sunda shelf and a faunal turnover associated to the arrival of hominins bringing in their toolbox, the first artifacts of acheulean tradition (cleaver, bolas and polyhedrons).

The excavation of PCTS

PCTS site in fact corresponds to an old destructive layer through erosional processes of a neighbouring occupation floor. The alluvials constituting the matrix of the archaeological layer are mixed with clayey and ashy gravels fewly transported (very irregular shape). They have delivered some stone tools and fossils, sometimes large size ones, quite fragile and for which the natural breaks are not eroded. Many major questions are then related to PCTS site:

- Chronology: The approach is based on dating methods such as ESR/U-series of fossils (mammal teeth) and quartz grains contained within the sediments.

– Taphonomy: The detailed (and integrated) analysis of sediments (gravels and clayey pebbles), bones and artifacts is fundamental in order to precise the conditions of deposit and transport from the original anthropic horizon. The quality of the fossils and the shape of the gravels testify for a short distance transport. The quantity of bolas (naturally very mobile) in high quantity in the site suggests an accumulation in a small depression.

- Hominins and their behaviour: So far, two Homo erectus molars have been discovered. Beyond the twenty bolas discovered in surface, many other have been found in excavation context. Some are in andesite, a raw material certainly available locally, while some are made of quartzite, an allochtonous material. These discoveries open questions on the area of collect of raw material by Homo erectus.

Toward the development of a patrimony scientific itinerary along the Dayu-Pucung transect in the heart of a World Heritage site.

The project currently developed along the Dayu-Pucung transect then tackles, at the heart of the Sangiran dome, scientific questions of primary importance for the knowledge of ancient of Southeast Asia.

It may, for the first time, set into relations major settlements within the dome and draw in a quite continuous frame the story of the landscapes and their peopling during the important period of climatic changes of the Middle Pleistocene.

In the framework of the PREHSEA scientific and cultural program, and thanks to the collaboration of the Sangiran Early Man Site Conservation Office, this research in PCTS and along the Dayu-Pucung transect is tackling essential questions regarding the preservation and valorization of the site, in association with the efforts of the Indonesian government to identify neighbor joining points such as the Cluster Dayu.