Modern human behaviour and Pleistocene Sahul in review

01st December 2007

Natalie R. Franklin and Phillip J. Habgood

The Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in Europe has furnished a ‘package’ of archaeologically visible innovations that are claimed to reflect modern human behaviour. McBrearty and Brooks (2000) documented the gradual assembling of the ‘package’ over a 200,000 year period in the African Middle Stone Age and proposed that it was later exported to other regions of the Old World. Mellars (2006) recently proposed that modern humans quickly spread from Africa with the ‘package of modern human behaviours’ and colonised not only Europe but also southern Asia and ultimately Australia. In this paper we examine the late Pleistocene-early Holocene archaeological record of Sahul to establish if the ‘package’ was brought here by the earliest colonising groups. We find that the ‘package’ is not evident at the earliest sites; rather its components were gradually assembled over a 30,000year period following initial occupation of the continent by anatomically and behaviourally modern humans. The review further supports the view that there is currently no ‘package of archaeologically visible traits’ that can be used to establish modern human behaviour, as the components not only appear in different continents at different times, but also at different times and locations within continents such as Australia. This review also identifies chronological and geographical patterning of the individual ‘traits’ and proposes six ‘zones of innovation’ across Sahul.

Natalie R. Franklin and Phillip J. Habgood
Modern human behaviour and Pleistocene Sahul in review
December 2007
65
1-16
Article
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