Coastal and lowland landscapes played a pivotal role in the dispersal of our species through Pleistocene New Guinea (northern Sahul) and were the focus of increasingly intensive settlement throughout the Holocene. This chapter assesses the current breadth of archaeological and palaeo-ecological records for the lowlands (â‰¤ 100â–’m above sea level) and islands of southern Papua New Guinea to contextualise past human use of these dynamic landscapes. A meta-analysis of available radiocarbon dates (nâ–’=â–’687) suggests fluctuating but generally increasing population densities from the end of the mid-Holocene as people adapted their settlement strategies to stabilising coastlines and expanding maritime trade networks. The earliest cultural records thus far reflect post-glacial behavioural adaptations to altitudinally suppressed lower montane forests from 17,000 years ago when temperatures were lower and coastlines relatively unstable. The limited visibility of cultural sites earlier than 5000 years ago can only partly be explained by post-glacial sea level rise having inundated former coastlines, with the region a potential pathway into the mountainous interior which has been utilised for at least 50,000 years. Targeted research is now needed to identify inland and earlier settlement locales to expand our understanding of how adaptation to lowland ecologies influenced patterns of cultural and linguistic diversity.
|Title of host publication||Palaeolandscapes in Archaeology: Lessons for the Past and Future|
|Editors||Mike T. Carson|
|Place of Publication||Abingdon United Kingdom|
|Publication status||Published - 2022|