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date: 18 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

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.

Keywords: Australia, anatomically modern Homo sapiens, maritime technology, maritime subsistence, megafaunal extinctions, New Guinea, Pleistocene colonization, Sahul, Wallacea

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