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Book Chapter

Barriers and bridges: early human dispersals in equatorial SE Asia

By
Christopher M. Wurster
Christopher M. Wurster
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Centre for Tropical Environmental Science and Sustainability, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
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Michael I. Bird
Michael I. Bird
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Centre for Tropical Environmental Science and Sustainability, James Cook University, Cairns, QLD 4870, Australia
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Published:
January 01, 2016

Abstract

Past environments of equatorial SE Asia must have played a critical role in determining the timing and trajectory of early human dispersal into and through the region. However, very few reliable terrestrial records are available with which to contextualize human dispersal events. This circumstance, coupled with a sparse archaeological record and the likelihood that much of the archaeological record is now submerged, means we have an incomplete understanding of the role that geography, climate and environment played in shaping human pre-history in this region. From a review of the literature, we conclude that there must have been a substantial environmental barrier resulting in a genetic separation between east and west Sundaland that persisted even though a terrestrial connection was present for most of the Pleistocene. This barrier is likely to be a north–south corridor of open non-forest vegetation, and its existence may have encouraged the rapid dispersal of early humans through the interior of Sundaland and on to Sahul. We conclude that more reliable terrestrial palaeoenvironmental records are required to better understand the links between past environments and dispersal events. We highlight avenues of particular research value, such as focusing on eastern Sumatra, western/southern Borneo and the islands in the Java Sea, where the purported savanna corridor most probably existed, and including edaphic factors in palaeovegetation modelling.

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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Geology and Archaeology: Submerged Landscapes of the Continental Shelf

J. Harff
J. Harff
University of Szczecin, Poland
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G. Bailey
G. Bailey
University of York, UK
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F. Lüth
F. Lüth
German Archaeological Institute, Germany
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Geological Society of London
Volume
411
ISBN electronic:
9781862396999
Publication date:
January 01, 2016

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