Speleological and environmental history of Lida Ajer cave, western Sumatra

Julien Louys*, Mathieu Duval, Gilbert J. Price, Kira Westaway, Yahdi Zaim, Yan Rizal, Mika Puspaningrum, Agus Trihascaryo, Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach, Ola Kwiecien, Yanjun Cai, Penny Higgins, Paul C. H. Albers, John de Vos, Patrick Roberts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
24 Downloads (Pure)


Some of the earliest evidence for the presence of modern humans in rainforests has come from the fossil deposits of Lida Ajer in Sumatra. Two human teeth from this cave were estimated to be 73–63 thousand years old, which is significantly older than some estimates of modern human migration out of Africa based on genetic data. The deposits were interpreted as being associated with a rainforest environment based largely on the presence of abundant orangutan fossils. As well as the main fossil-bearing chamber, fossil-bearing passages are present below a sinkhole, although the relationship between the different fossil deposits has only been tenuously established. Here, we provide significant new sedimentological, geochronological and palaeoecological data aimed at reconstructing the speleological and environmental history of the cave and the clastic and fossil deposits therein. Our data suggest that the Lida Ajer fossils were deposited during Marine Isotope Stage 4, with fossils from the lower passages older than the main fossil chamber. Our use of stable carbon and oxygen isotope analyses of mammalian tooth enamel demonstrates that early humans probably occupied a closed-canopy forest very similar to those present in the region today, although the fossil orangutans may have occupied a slightly different niche. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Tropical forests in the deep human past’.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20200494
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1849
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2022


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