New evidence of megafaunal bone damage indicates late colonization of Madagascar

PLoS One. 2018 Oct 10;13(10):e0204368. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0204368. eCollection 2018.


The estimated period in which human colonization of Madagascar began has expanded recently to 5000-1000 y B.P., six times its range in 1990, prompting revised thinking about early migration sources, routes, maritime capability and environmental changes. Cited evidence of colonization age includes anthropogenic palaeoecological data 2500-2000 y B.P., megafaunal butchery marks 4200-1900 y B.P. and OSL dating to 4400 y B.P. of the Lakaton'i Anja occupation site. Using large samples of newly-excavated bone from sites in which megafaunal butchery was earlier dated >2000 y B.P. we find no butchery marks until ~1200 y B.P., with associated sedimentary and palynological data of initial human impact about the same time. Close analysis of the Lakaton'i Anja chronology suggests the site dates <1500 y B.P. Diverse evidence from bone damage, palaeoecology, genomic and linguistic history, archaeology, introduced biota and seafaring capability indicate initial human colonization of Madagascar 1350-1100 y B.P.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Archaeology
  • Artiodactyla
  • Bone and Bones
  • Eupleridae
  • Fossils*
  • History, Ancient
  • Human Migration / history*
  • Humans
  • Madagascar
  • Radiometric Dating
  • Strepsirhini

Grant support

This research was supported by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant DP0986991 to AA; The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.