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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This article addresses the question of what is the central narrative of the archaeological past in Australia and its adjacent islands. The article summarises genetic evidence that there may have been separate populations moving into the northern and southern parts of Sahul, and the linguistic evidence that there were several major language groups at the time of contact with Europeans. The diversity of languages was mirrored by diversity in material culture, ritual, and social organization. The article argues that the archaeological record is the best evidence of how this diversity emerged. It presents the evidence for initial colonization and movement within the continent. It discusses some of the evidence of the impact of humans on the environment and how people responded to the changing resource availability. Finally it summarises some of the key changes in symbolic communication as represented by the rock art and their implications.

Keywords: Australia, Sahul, colonization, genetic, languages, symbolic communication, rock art

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