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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The first human populations colonized the Bismarck Archipelago about 40,000 years ago. The zooarchaeological evidence from Buang Merabak (New Ireland) reveals that, at a first stage, hunter-gatherers only focused on the exploitation of local faunal resources, especially cave-dwelling bats and varanids. As for other Pleistocene assemblages, the contribution of fish to the diet is negligible. Introduced species appear since about 23,050 cal bp with the northern common cuscus (endemic of New Guinea), although bats still provided most of the meat consumed at the site. In later times, the cuscus dominates the assemblage, partially replacing cave-dwelling bats, and the wallaby is also introduced from New Guinea. The introduction and increasing consumption of the cuscus had major implications in terms of land use and mobility. The initial focus on cave-dwelling bats implied shorter stays at sites and required constant movements through the landscape; the shift towards cuscus consumption reduced mobility.

Keywords: island colonization, island ecology, adaptation, animal introduction, hunter-gatherers, land use, mobility, cave-dwelling bats, cuscus, Bismarck Archipelago

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