The Peopling of Sahul and Near Oceania

Susan O'Connor, Peter Hiscock

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Sahul, comprising Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea was colonized from Sunda, the enlarged southernmost extension of Eurasia, by anatomically modern Homo sapiens over 50,000 years ago. Pleistocene colonization of Sahul required watercraft to cross the perpetual island region of Wallacea, wherein populations adjusted to changing patterns of floral and faunal diversity. Once in Sahul, populations quickly adapted to the varying resources, developed regional differences in technology and culture, and likely contributed to megafaunal extinctions also influenced by environmental change. Ancient DNA and skeletal studies indicate that after colonization, Sahul was largely isolated from other populations. The earliest humans to inhabit Near Oceania, the islands northeast of New Guinea, arrived approximately 45,000 years ago. While the sophistication of their earliest navigational technology is debated, by 20,000 years ago these populations engaged in increasingly frequent voyaging, translocating New Guinea mainland fauna to the islands and moving valuable stone resources over hundreds of kilometers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania
    Editors Ethan Cochrane and Terry Hunt
    Place of PublicationOxford
    PublisherOxford University Press
    ISBN (Print)9780199925070
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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