Skeletal remains of a Pleistocene modern human (Homo sapiens) from Sulawesi

Adam Brumm, Francis Bulbeck, Budianto Hakim, Basran Burhan, Adhi Agus Oktaviana, Iwan Sumantri, Jian-Xin Zhao, Maxime Aubert, Ratno Sardi, David P McGahan, Andi Muhammad Saiful

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Major gaps remain in our knowledge of the early history of Homo sapiens in Wallacea. By 70-60 thousand years ago (ka), modern humans appear to have entered this distinct biogeographical zone between continental Asia and Australia. Despite this, there are relatively few Late Pleistocene sites attributed to our species in Wallacea. H. sapiens fossil remains are also rare. Previously, only one island in Wallacea (Alor in the southeastern part of the archipelago) had yielded skeletal evidence for pre-Holocene modern humans. Here we report on the first Pleistocene human skeletal remains from the largest Wallacean island, Sulawesi. The recovered elements consist of a nearly complete palate and frontal process of a modern human right maxilla excavated from Leang Bulu Bettue in the southwestern peninsula of the island. Dated by several different methods to between 25 and 16 ka, the maxilla belongs to an elderly individual of unknown age and sex, with small teeth (only M1 to M3 are extant) that exhibit severe occlusal wear and related dental pathologies. The dental wear pattern is unusual. This fragmentary specimen, though largely undiagnostic with regards to morphological affinity, provides the only direct insight we currently have from the fossil record into the identity of the Late Pleistocene people of Sulawesi.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-27
    JournalPLOS ONE (Public Library of Science)
    Issue number9
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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