Early human symbolic behavior in the Late Pleistocene of Wallacea

Adam Brumm, Michelle Langley, Mark Moore, Budianto Hakim, Muhammad Ramli, Iwan Sumantri, Basran Burhan, Andi Muhammad Saiful, Linda Siagian, . Suryatman, Ratno Sardi, Andi Jusdi, Rainer Grun

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Wallacea, the zone of oceanic islands separating the continental regions of Southeast Asia and Australia, has yielded sparse evidence for the symbolic culture of early modern humans. Here we report evidence for symbolic activity 30,000-22,000 y ago at Leang Bulu Bettue, a cave and rock-shelter site on theWallacean island of Sulawesi. We describe hitherto undocumented practices of personal ornamentation and portable art, alongside evidence for pigment processing and use in deposits that are the same age as dated rock art in the surrounding karst region. Previously, assemblages of multiple and diverse types of Pleistocene "symbolic" artifacts were entirely unknown from this region. The Leang Bulu Bettue assemblage provides insight into the complexity and diversification of modern human culture during a key period in the global dispersal of our species. It also shows that early inhabitants of Sulawesi fashioned ornaments from body parts of endemic animals, suggesting modern humans integrated exotic faunas and other novel resources into their symbolic world as they colonized the biogeographically unique regions southeast of continental Eurasia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4105-4110pp
    JournalPNAS - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number16
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


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