Reconstructing the geomorphic history of Liang Bua, Flores, Indonesia: a stratigraphic interpretation of the occupational environment

J Hum Evol. 2009 Nov;57(5):465-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2009.01.004. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


Liang Bua, in Flores, Indonesia, was formed as a subterranean chamber over 600ka. From this time to the present, a series of geomorphic events influenced the structure of the cave and cave deposits, creating a complex stratigraphy. Within these deposits, nine main sedimentary units have been identified. The stratigraphic relationships between these units provide the evidence needed to reconstruct the geomorphic history of the cave. This history was dominated by water action, including slope wash processes, channel formation, pooling of water, and flowstone precipitation, which created waterfalls, cut-and-fill stratigraphy, large pools of water, and extensive flowstone cappings. The reconstructed sequence of events over the last 190k.yr. has been summarized by a series of time slices that demonstrate the nature of the occupational environment in Liang Bua. The earliest artifacts at the site, dated to approximately 190ka, testify to hominin presence in the area, but the reconstructions suggest that occupation of the cave itself may not have been possible until after approximately 100ka. At approximately 95ka, channel erosion of a basal unit, which displays evidence of deposition in a pond environment, created a greater relief on the cave floor, and formed remanent areas of higher ground that later became a focus for hominin occupation from 74-61ka by the west wall and in the center of the cave, and from approximately 18-17ka by the east wall. These zones have been identified according to the sloping nature of the stratigraphy and the distribution of artifacts, and their locations have implications for the archaeological interpretation of the site.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Biological Evolution
  • Geography
  • Geological Phenomena*
  • Hominidae / classification
  • Hominidae / genetics
  • Humans
  • Indonesia