Patterns of Modernity: Taphonomy, Sampling and the Pleistocene Archaeological Record of Sahul

Michelle Langley

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Our knowledge of early Australasian societies has significantly expanded in recent decades with more than 220 Pleistocene sites reported from a range of environmental zones and depositional contexts. The uniqueness of this dataset has played an increasingly important role in global debates about the origins and expression of complex behaviour among early modern human populations. Nevertheless, discussions of Pleistocene behaviour and cultural innovation are yet to adequately consider the effects of taphonomy and archaeological sampling on the nature and representativeness of the record. This chapter investigates the effect of preservation and sampling on the archaeological record of Sahul and explores the implications for understanding early cultural diversity and complexity. In contrast to previous interpretations of this region, which have concluded that Sahul’s Pleistocene record of complex behaviours (behavioural modernity) is ‘elusive’ and more similar to Middle Palaeolithic Eurasia, the results of this study argue that Sahul’s archaeological record (when taphonomy and sampling are taken into account) demonstrates more similarities to other modern human records (MSA Africa and UP Europe), than to Middle Palaeolithic Eurasia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationSouthern Asia, Australia and the Search for Human Origins
    Editors Robin Dennell and Martin Porr
    Place of PublicationNew York, USA
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107017856
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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