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Review
, 115 (34), 8482-8490

When Did Homo sapiens First Reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?

Affiliations
Review

When Did Homo sapiens First Reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?

James F O'Connell et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A.

Abstract

Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens, AMH) began spreading across Eurasia from Africa and adjacent Southwest Asia about 50,000-55,000 years ago (ca 50-55 ka). Some have argued that human genetic, fossil, and archaeological data indicate one or more prior dispersals, possibly as early as 120 ka. A recently reported age estimate of 65 ka for Madjedbebe, an archaeological site in northern Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea), if correct, offers what might be the strongest support yet presented for a pre-55-ka African AMH exodus. We review evidence for AMH arrival on an arc spanning South China through Sahul and then evaluate data from Madjedbebe. We find that an age estimate of >50 ka for this site is unlikely to be valid. While AMH may have moved far beyond Africa well before 50-55 ka, data from the region of interest offered in support of this idea are not compelling.

Keywords: Homo sapiens; Late Pleistocene; Madjedbebe; Sahul; anatomically modern humans.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Map of the SCS arc showing the locations of all fossil and archaeological sites mentioned in the text and of the WHL between Sunda and western Wallacea.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Radiometric ages for the eight oldest securely dated archaeological sites in Sahul vs. Madjedbebe phase 2 (, –84).

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