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From Africa to Australia: Elements for an early coastal route

C. Coup e & J.M. Hombert August 2001

Mailing address: Dynamique du Langage ISH 14, avenue Berthelot 69363 Lyon Cedex 07 ccoupe@ens-lyon.fr jean-marie.hombert@univ-lyon2.fr

* We thank Edouard Bard, the LSCE of Saclay and the Service Oc eanographique et Hydographique de la Marine Fran caise for their data and information about the evolution of sea levels and visibility at sea. We also thank Nicholas Evans, R emi Dallongeville, William Foley, Laurent Sagart and Paul Sanlaville for their useful useful comments on this article. Special thanks to Harriet Jisa for help with the English version.

Abstract: Following the lines traced by much research concerning the colonization of Australia, this article attempts to bring a new contribution by re-examining and developing the idea of a very old rst migration towards Papua New Guinea (PNG) rather than towards Australia proper. Starting from current theories about migrations from East Africa, the authors propose an early arrival in South East Asia, using as a source of evidence datings from Australian sites. Adding to paleo-geographical studies of current Indonesia, they defend the proposition of an intentional and visually guided passage towards PNG and not towards the North-West shores of Australia via Timor. Dierent hypotheses concerning migration are considered with emphasis on coastal migration from east Africa to south eastern Asia and nally towards Sahul.


Over the course of the history of human migrations, our ancestors have proven time and time again their capacity to conquer and settle all regions of our planet. In the context of this human expansion, Sahul, the name given to the large continent regrouping Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Tasmania, constitutes a unique place of study. Despite very important variations in sea level during the course of glacial episodes, this area has always been separated from the south eastern point of the Asiatic continent by sea barriers of a minimum of 100 kilometers wide. During a long period of the last glacial episode, this extreme part of Asia was in fact more extensive than it is today, grouping Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and Java into a vast region called Sunda. Modern man was very probably the rst large species coming from Asia to overtake this geographical isolation. Rening the date of this rst crossing allows both the proof of the existence of Homo Sapiens in south East Asia and the estimation of technological and cultural capacities of our ancestors through investigation of the means of navigation used. In parallel to dierent archeological and paleontological evidence on the Australian territory, the Out of Africa theory allows for the positioning of the colonization of Australia in a more general framework, by associating it with an initial expansion from the African continent. Within this framework, we will expand on research concerning sea levels and topography of Sunda and of the Wallacea region (the waters and the islands separating Sunda from Sahul), with the aim of bringing older dates to light. We will develop the idea of a rst passage ` a vue towards PNG and will discuss dierent possible migration routes, considering both arguments already proposed in the literature and dierent connections between aboriginal Australians and Papuans.


Archaeologic and palaeological evidence of the colonization of Sahul by Homo Sapiens

Archaeological evidence

During the last forty years, given the datings of dierent Australian and PNG sites, estimations for the arrival of man to Sahul have been pushed back considerably, ranging from less than 10,000 years in the sixties to more than 60,000 years nowadays. These new estimations were made possible in part due to dierent methods of dating and their evolutions: older carbon 14 datings, mass or spectrometry, electronic spin resonance (ESR) in addition to thermoluminescence (TL), optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) since the nineties. Debates have accompanied these technological advances (see, for example [RJS94a] and [All94] for discussion of the temporal limits of carbon 14 and thermoluminescence), but the pushing back of the dates is clearly established today and will perhaps continue in the years to come with a more accurate dating of already known sites and the discovery of new sites. It is impossible to give an exhaustive account of Australian sites. However, for our pur3

poses here, it is important to briey review some of the oldest archeological evidence available for diverse regions of the old Greater Australia. This short review should not however ignore the great number of more recent sites (from 30,000 BP, see for example [Bow92]for an account of numerous Australian sites). Malakunanja II, situated in the Northern Territory of Northwest Australia was dated in 1990 close to 50,000 BP by thermoluminescence [RJS90]. As for the majority of sites for which there are very old datings, only lithic artifacts were discovered during excavation. Seventy kilometers to the south of Malakunanja II, Nauwalabila I, in the Deaf Adder Gorge region, was dated by OSL. Optical dates were given for non burned quartz sediments in an excavation undertaken in a rocky shelter. Dating the stratigraphic levels immediately anterior and posterior to deposits of lithic artifacts and pigments, archeologists have dened a time span of [53.4+/-5.4 ka, 60.3+/-6.7 ka] for human presence [RJS+ 94b]. In PNG, the site of the Huon peninsula also yielded some stone tools. Consisting of coral terraces of hundreds of meters high created by a tectonic eruption, it presented an important interest for the study of variations in sea levels (which we will return to in 4.2) [Cha74]. The datings of this site have evolved from 40,000 - 60,000 BP fteen years ago [GCMP86] to 52,000 - 61,000 BP (by measures of the coral terrace supporting the lithic artefacts [COM+ 94]). Still older datings were proposed in 1996 for the Jinmium rock shelter in the Northern Territory. By thermoluminescence Fullagar & al. obtained datings of lithic artifacts of 116,000 +/- 12,000 BP [FPH96]. These data, however, have been seriously contested by other researchers who suggested the possibility of contamination of a part of the sedimentary grains used for measurement or of vertical displacements of artifacts in the stratigraphy [RBO+ 98] [OA98]. Finally, one of the major discoveries of the last years took place on a site known for many decades, the Willendra Lakes region, in the west of New South Wales. Lake Mungo is one of the dried lakes which has produced several human skeletons. Successive datings undertaken in this area has produced rst the date of 28,000 - 30,000 BP (carbon 14 dating), then between 36,000 and 50,000 BP (thermoluminescence dating) and nally 62,000 +/- 6,000 BP (datings measured directly on the bones of the LM III skeleton, using various techniques such as ESR, mass or spectrometry on uranium isotopes, . . . ) [TGM+ 99]. Thorne underscores in this respect the importance of directly dating bones. These last dates are the oldest currently known for human presence in Australia (if the extremely controversial Jinmium site is ignored), but the localization of the Mungo site in southeast Australia, as opposed to the most probable arrival sites, leaves open the possibility of an arrival which is older by a minimum of a few thousand years. Figure 1 presents the sites that we have discussed, giving their geographical position.


Animal extinctions and ecological changes

Parallel to archeological data yielding direct observation of the presence of humans (bones, artifacts), other sources of information have been proposed to argue for the occupation of Australia. 4

Figure 1: Ancient sites in Sahul 5

The extinction of part of the indigenous Australian fauna at the end of the Pleistocene era (more than 85% of land species of more that 44 kilograms, for the most part marsupials [MMJ+ 99]) has been claimed to have resulted from human activity [Thr80]. The impact of human activity is probably attributable to hunting, but also to modications of the environment, related particularly to dierent uses of re: hunting, signalling, creation of new prairie zones more suitable to hunting [Jon92]. Naturally occurring res must have occurred on the Australian territories, but mans arrival probably strongly increased their frequency. In this respect the study of a sequence of fossil pollens by Singh [SKC81] revealed important changes during the course of the last glacial era: the appearance and the persistence of important fragments of coal, and the evolution of vegetation towards species more resistant to re. The layer (zone f, see Wrights article) revealing the beginnings of the transformations induced by human use of re was dated by Singh at approximately 120,000 years, and subsequently reevaluated by Wright to approximately 60,000 years [Wri86]. Other studies focussing around these same dates show important ecological modications caused by human res. Johnson & al. analyze, for example, the decline of the summer monsoon in the Lake Eyre region as resulting from diminishing transfers of humidity between the biosphere and the atmosphere which caused the monsoons to move to more interior land [JMF+ 99]. Some authors propose that no massive animal extinction took place before 30,000 BP [Mur84]. Nevertheless some recent studies point to a dierent conclusion: a study by Miller & al. [MMJ+ 99] on the disappearance of the large land bird Genyornis newtoni proposes a date of 50,000+/-5000 BP, based on datings of eggs of this species in dierent Australian sites in the east and the southeast of the central region. Comparisons with eggs of other species as well as a climate study argue that this disappearance is attributable to the presence of man. It is argued that hunting and re have modied the vegetation. This rapid review of the current archeological and paleontological data for Sahul permits a partial understanding of the Australian situation. In light of these discoveries, it would appear that mans arrival can be estimated at 65,000 or 70,000 years at least. The next step in our paper consists of framing this situation and its evolution in more global models of population expansion. Our goal is to better interpret and relate data from Africa to that available for Asia or Australia.


The Out of Africa Hypothesis and the rst migrations towards Southeast Asia
Principal theories of the development of Homo sapiens: replacement of regional continuity

Two major and largely opposed theoretical models are available to explain the appearance and the development of modern man or Homo sapiens. The model of regional continuity postulates an evolution by local evolutionary jumps of the Homo erectus population towards Sapiens. Developed essentially by Wolpo, Templeton 6

and Thorne [TW92], this theory is based principally on archeological evidence, i.e., skull bones sharing characteristics of both Homo erectus and Homo Sapiens in China, in Europe or in Australia. Local evolution should normally lead to dierent species, but the genetic ow between the dierent human populations would have allowed a single species to be maintained. The second theoretical model proposes that the evolution of Homo erectus to Homo sapiens took place in a unique location, followed by expansion of these Homo sapiens and a replacement of more primitive populations by more modern ones. For over fteen years the Out of Africa theory proposed that East Africa is the origin of this emergence about 150,000 years ago. This theory is based upon the apparent genetic separation between Sapiens and Neanderthal in Europe (in particular, no sign of interbreeding) and upon a genetic data base which establishes relations between modern human populations. Nuclear and mitochondrial DNA studies seem to indicate that Africa is the sole genetic source of existing populations, with a more or less wide diversity of the African group in relations to other large European, North and South Asian groups. This position argues for an older emergence in Africa which would have led to a greater genetic diversity. Cann & al. propose the time span of [140,000; 290,000 BP] for the appearance of Homo sapiens and the span of [62,000; 225,000 BP] for the separation of the two primary branches of the tree of minimum length (one branch leads only to African mtDNAs, while the second one leads to African and non-African mtDNAs) [CSW87].


Coastal migrations towards Southeast Asia

In the framework of the Out of Africa theory, it is necessary to explain how the human expansion outside of Africa began and evolved towards other continents. What dates can be given to this expansion and which routes were taken ? A recent theory, developed by Stringer [Str00] proposes a migration along the coasts of Asia which would have preceded migration toward Europe. Some arguments are available to justify this migration. The main one is the proof of a very old (around 125,000 BP) use of sea resources, found on the shores of the Red Sea in Eritrea [WBB+ 00]. This discovery attests a very old adaptation to coastal regions. Walter et al. propose that this adaptation was a response to changes in the paleoclimate during the last glacial cycles. The increase in human population and competition along coastlines during arid periods is suggested to have pushed some human groups to migrate. Such a period is attested in southwest Africa between 110,000 and 90,000 BP, and although very little is known about the climate in other parts of Africa, there is a strong probability that this pattern was largely distributed over the continent [Ada97]. Stringer proposes, in addition, that the coastal migrations would have permitted the conservation of a relatively uniform environment during migration. If the migrants had progressed in the interior they would have been forced to adapt to dierent and changing environments. 3.2.1 Possible routes from East Africa

Many principal coastal routes could have been taken from East Africa to Asia: a rst one would have followed the western coastline of the Red Sea to the Middle East, then either 7

travelling directly east to the coasts of current Iran, or following along the coast of the Arabian peninsula. A second and faster route would have gone directly to the Arabian peninsula via Cape Yemen. The distance of sea to cross does not exceed twenty kilometers with current water levels, and this distance must have been reduced because of a fall in water level of some tens of meters (-30/-40) as was the case 100,000 years ago. If the rst Australians could have crossed much larger marine expansions twenty or thirty thousand years later (see 4.1), such a short crossing in this region of the globe is very probable. A second movement would have followed across the Persian Gulf, and once again a low water level of the would have facilitated the passage. The small number of sites found along the Arab coastline could appear as a counter argument to this proposal. However, this can be countered by arguing that potential sites are now submerged or that very few excavations have been carried out in this region. An additional argument can be found in the life style of these very nomadic migrants, making little use of caves. It is this last argument that Murray invokes to explain that the extinction of certain Australian animal species is not correlated with the presence of remains of these species in the discovered caves [Mur84]. The two proposed routes might have been and most probably were taken at dierent times. The second proposed passage, however, speeds up considerably the passage to Asia (this obviously does not mean that the migrants consciously choose the shortest route) and pushes back the plausible date of arrival in Southeast Asia. Figure 2 traces the two possible routes leading out of east Africa, as well as the coastal migration to Indonesia. Sea level on the map is 40 meters lower than the current level. 3.2.2 Timing

What dates should be proposed for the rst expansions of modern man outside of Africa ? Several theories are available and large variation exists among the proposed dates. Lahr and Foley argue for a multiple dispersal model, and hypothesize a passage along the coast of the Arabian penisula [LF94]. According to them, the initial migration to Asia could have taken place at any time between 100 and 50 kilo-years (this later extremity is now known to be later than the dates given for the rst Australian occupation). They also refer to Kingdons proposal of a rst migration toward Asia from the Middle East region 90,000 years ago [Kin93]. Klein proposes a more recent expansion date around 45,000-50,000 BP, that he links to the passage to Upper Paleolithic and Later Stone Age in Africa and Europe[Kle99] (p. 588). However, he raises the problem of ancient datings in Australia which would imply an earlier migration to eastern Asia than to Western Asia and Europe (p. 593). Regarding new evidence in Eritrea, paleo-climatic hypotheses and dates in Australia, and in line with these dierent theories, we propose a time window of 110,000 - 90,000 years for the departure from Africa towards Asia. Depending on the route followed by rst emigrants, this span may allow the presence of the morphologically modern types found in the Middle East (e.g. at Skhul and Qafzeh) 90,000 to 100,000 years ago [Van92]. But these discoveries might also very well relate to a second and distinct expansion. We do not see any problem in 8

Figure 2: Migratory routes from Africa to Sunda 9

an ancient migration that did not leave any clues in the Levant, since the paths taken may have bypassed this area. Fixing the date of the beginning of migration is a rst point. The second point is to estimate the time necessary for travelling from the point of departure to the point of arrival, in this case the extreme southeast of the Asiatic continent. This time depends obviously on the local population expansions and on the more or less arbitrary character of populations movement. In some cases it is possible to estimate rather precisely the speed of displacements. For subsequent periods, and with the aid of genetic gradients, Cavalli-Sforza was able to measure the speed of movement for the rst farmers [CSMP93], which results in a calculated speed on the order of 1 kilometer per year. Of course, this estimated speed should not be considered to represent a long and constant movement, but rather as a mean of more chaotic movements which can be compared to Brownian particle movement in hot liquids. Thus, it is likely that the displacement of individuals resulted from constraints related to food supply. In the case of a coastal migration, the extension of shing zones and areas suitable for the harvesting of sea foods, or hunting territories along the coast probably explains the long progression to the east. If we adopt the speed proposed by Cavalli-Sforza, which concern populations in course of sedentarisation, the time required to cover the southern coasts of the Asiatic continent can be estimated at approximately 10,000 to 15,000 years. It is possible that population displacement was much faster, on the order of a mean of many kilometers a year: the exploitation of sea resources has the advantage of being relatively homogeneous along the coastline, as is the environment, as opposed to displacement over land which is subject to geographical and climatic constraints. This argues for a relatively rapid migration, some thousands of years, between the two regions. The beginning of an expansion from Africa around 110,000 BP could very well lead to an arrival in Indonesia as early as 95,000. It should be noted that a migration along a coastline is necessarily more directional and consequently faster than a migration in open country. Between two possible directions, either retracing their path or moving further along the coast, rst immigrants might have preferred the later possibility to exploit sites never reached before. 3.2.3 Cultural adaptation to navigation

As we will see in what follows, the rst arrivals to Australia must have crossed sea expanses of many tens of kilometers between the Wallacea islands. We can hypothesize that this navigational capacity developed during the course of the long trajectory from East Africa to Southeast Asia (and not only in the Indonesian region). The crossing of mangroves or rivers, often many kilometers wide (particularly at their mouth), as were probably the delta regions of the Ganges or the Indus, or moreover the numerous islands of the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, must have oered new occasions for the use of means of navigation. If the route taken by some human groups was in fact via the south east of the Arab peninsula, the crossing of the Yemen Cape and the Persian Gulf must represent the rst sea bound obstacles. An argument which will play a role in the remainder of our argumentation is the possibility of being able to view the opposite coast from the departure point. Our ancestors must thus 10

have progressively developed navigational techniques through the realization that it is easier to reach a destination by boat than to go around the obstacle on foot. It seems important to us not only to speak of coastal migrations, but rather of the slow development of a real coastal culture : shing, boating or shell harvesting techniques, transmitted from one generation to another, swimming, knowledge of tidal movements, use of nets, use of moonlight for night travelling, carrying of drinkable water in appropriate containers, loss of non-coastal techniques (avoidance of some specic predators, hunting techniques, . . . ), increased demographic growth rates, . . . . Such an adaptation would have prevented immigrants from leaving coast for more interior lands. Following this proposal, we suggest that even if the Indonesian region was an appropriate place to develop sailing skills, it was not the primary center for the emergence of such knowledge. Humans would have in fact acquired this knowledge earlier along the way from Africa to southeast Asia. Within the framework of current hypotheses concerning the migration of modern man outside of Africa, the Australian datings give a lower limit for the initial arrival in Indonesia, but they do not x an upper limit. The data summarized above do not rule out a reasonable estimation of arrival in Indonesia much before 65,000 BP. In what follows, we will develop this idea, examining rst the paleogeographical features of the Wallacea area.

The recalibration of a paradigm for the rst peopling of Greater Australia

The title of this section is borrowed from work by Birdsell [Bir77] in which dierent routes leading from Sunda to Sahul are examined in detail. It is important to reexamine this work in light of current datings, of current knowledge about the evolution of sea levels and of the framework given by the hypothesis summarized earlier about the Out of Africa migrations.


Synthesis of hypotheses concerning the passing from Sunda to Sahul

Much work has been devoted to the passage from Sunda to Sahul by crossing the Wallacea islands. Birdsell (1977) details two main routes (each one with two or three alternative subroutes) which allow one to reach Sahul from Sunda. He examines these routes at sea levels of -150 meters and -50 meters in relations to current sea levels. By considering the distances between islands, altitude and width of targeted islands, he prefers the southern routes of passage for sea level at -150 meters, which he dates at 53,000 and 20,000 BP. For sea level at -50 meters it is the northern routes which are preferred because of the much greater distance between the Australian coastline and the islands along the southern route. Figure 3 presents these two routes, with sea level at -50 meters.


12 Figure 3: Birdsells proposed routes to Greater Australia

Following Birdsells work, many researchers became interested in this hypothesis and attempted modelling of the human crossing and expansion along the coast. Jones summarizes part of this work, examining in particular a drift from the Timor Islands or neighboring islands towards the North-western shores of Australia [Jon89]. Some of this research focused on the crossing proper, and some concentrated on the probability of a small group to survive and spread out on the Australian continent. Let us consider rst the work on the crossing proper. During the wet seasons strong winds blow from the Timor Island to Arnhem Land in Australia. The Barra could have pushed sea vessels towards the Australian coast. Jones points to small islands of vegetation measuring many square meters drifting on the Sepik River in the north of PNG and capable of covering many kilometers at sea [Jon92]. However, the distances between the major islands are very probably too long for these small islands to cover. In addition, if this were the case, there should be traces of other large species moving from Sunda to Australia. No such traces exist. Most probably men of this period used rafts made of bamboo or other resistant wood commonly found in Southeast Asia [Bir77]. Jones proposes that inhabitants of the Sunda shores were carried o by currents or storms and drifted to the Australian coast [Jon89]. Using simulations, Thorne estimated the crossing time at approximately seven days [TR89]. This relatively long crossing time necessitates sucient drinking water and food, or the means of obtaining them later from the sea. The arrival of a very small group on the Australian shores does not guarantee a successful colonisation. Such a group must have been able to increase population size, avoiding extinction from restricted numbers of individuals. Calaby proposes that even one young pregnant female could have supplied the rst steps to colonization [Cal76], though this view has been strongly contested by others [WO79]. An expansion depends most probably on a larger number of individuals, crossing to Australia at dierent times. McArthur attempted to evaluate the probability of such a scenario (in Polynesia) leading to successful population expansion, without however taking into consideration genetic bottlenecks resulting from such situations [MST76]. He concluded that knowing factors as mortality, eective fertility or mating patterns is essential to estimate the minimum population leading to a successful development, and that any proposal without remains futile . The majority of the work that we have discussed so far postulates for the most part that the sea crossing were due to chance, with numerous attempts and failures. After presenting the data concerning the evolution of sea levels in the region, we will defend the hypothesis that the crossings were in fact far more intentionally planned.


Data concerning changing sea levels

As we have already mentioned, one of the major aspects of the crossing between Sunda and Sahul is the important dierences in sea level over the last glacial cycle. In order to better understand the evolution of water levels, paleo-climatologists use dierent types of data. Measures taken in corals and measures of the oxygen 18 concentration in deep-sea sediment cores or ice samples at dierent depths are robust indications in the reconstruction of sea levels. Measurements taken in dierent places at a given date can however often reveal impor13

20 0 -20 -40 -60 -80 -100 -120 -140 0 20 40 60 80 100 Time (kilo-years) BP 120 140

Figure 4: Global changes in sea levels during the last glacial episode, reproduced from [BHF90]

tant dierences from one region to another. This is due, in fact, to local tectonic variations, with eruptions or collapses of the tectonic plaque in response to constraints exerted upon it. The comparisons of measurements taken from dierent regions of the world allows for the separation of local phenomena from global modications [LC01]. Figure 4 presents the general evolution of sea levels during the last glacial episode, based on measures of oxygen 18 concentration (reproduced from [BHF90], original from [Sha87]), and gure 5 the evolution of relative sea level on the Huon Peninsula (reproduced from [LC01]). It is important to notice a drop in sea levels around 65,000 years. Between 110,000 and 65,000 BP, sea levels uctuate around 40-50 meters under the actual level, while they are closer to 80-90 meters after this date. This decrease is less pronounced on the Huon Peninsula. This transition period is relevant to the passage to Australia, particularly given current site datings. If the passage had taken place shortly before the oldest current datings (around 65,000 BP), the sea levels were close to -80 meters, while a later arrival date, around 90,000 or 80,000 BP would have taken place in a much dierent geographical context. As a note, one should be careful with referring to sea level variations: studies sometimes extend the very low sea levels around the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, around 21,000 BP) to earlier periods of the last glacial episode. In fact, the dropping in sea levels was much less marked during the major part of this climatic event. It should be emphasized that the very low sea levels observed before the next to last interglacial stage about 140,000 years ago were comparable or less than those of the glacial

Relative sea level (m)


20 0 -20 -40 -60 -80 -100 -120 -140 0 20 40 60 80 100 Time (kilo-years) BP 120 140

Figure 5: Changes in sea levels on the Huon Peninsula during the last glacial episode (minima and maxima), reproduced from [LC01]

maximum 20,000 years ago. Given current data and theories about human evolution, it seems improbable that modern man set foot on Australia during this earler period, although the paleo-environment was more favorable then than it was at 60,000 or 100,000 years.


Which route before 70,000 BP ?

Geographical maps and data bases

In order to study the evolution of the topography of the Wallacea Islands, we use a topographical data base called TerrainBase [Ter]. This data base contains elevation measures for land and submarine elevations for the entire planet with an accuracy of a 5 minutes angle, or approximately 10 kilometers. In our exploitation of this data base we developed a computer module which permits, among other things, to create land maps from dierent projection, to zoom in to precise regions, to calculate distances, etc. This software allowed us to create the maps that are presented in this article and is a part of a larger program platform, LEMMingS, which can be used for a number of dierent types of simulation. Multi-agent models for human migration, for example, may yield information about the expansion of our ancestors on Earth in an original manner [Cou01]. The precision of the data base is very good, but it does use an averaging of altitude measures which can hinder somewhat exact measurement of distances and orography. Thus, we also used a commercial map [Car], and a topographic map of northwestern Australia from [But89]. For further study it would be useful to use even more precise data bases, such as GTOPO30, which gives a precision close to a kilometer, but unfortunately supplies 15

Relative sea level (m)

topographical measures only for sites above current sea levels. 4.3.2 To see or not to see: visibility and distances

In his work, Birdsell places the minimal sea levels at the last glacial maximum (approximately 21,000 BP) and around 53,000 BP (following Chappells work). The available data runs counter to this second maximum, since the global level most probably did not reach more than -80 meters. Outside of these periods, Birdsell postulates sea levels uctuating around -50 meters. This hypothesis is veried for the periods between 100,000 and 70,000 BP, as the data in the previous paragraph have shown. In the light of sea level data, the reading of Birdsells work hence suggests to us that only part of his analysis, where northern routes are favoured, applies correctly to our problem (-50m), a dropping of -150m being both too recent and perhaps a little overestimated. We have examined maps for the dierent intervals of plausible sea levels between 100,000 and 60,000 BP. Figures 6, 7, 8 and 9 show the Wallacea region at dierent sea levels: currently existing levels, -80 meters, -50 meters and 30 meters. During the island crossings between Sunda and Sahul, depending on the distances separating the islands and their altitude, the migrants must have been able to perceive some land on the horizon. In his work, Birdsell gives the altitudes and the distances for a certain number of islands, but does not calculate the possible visibility between them for dierent routes. We found several interpretations concerning this aspect: Davidson and Nobles conclusion was that Birdsell showed that the several possible routes all involved at least one crossing of 90 kilometers to a target that could not have been seen at the beginning of the voyage [DN92] (p. 135), where Bellwood estimated that research by the late Joseph Birdsell and by Georey Irwin of Auckland University suggests that there were separate northern and southern routes, along which most islands would have been visible from their closest neighbors on clear days, leading from the Sunda Shelf islands towards Australia and New Guinea. [Bel97]. In his book, Irwin states that the route 1A from Bridsell provides intervisibility along an unbroken chain of islands...but the two southern sub-routes become blind [Irw92] (p. 21). It is possible to develop a formula which calculates both the probable visibility of a target island as a function of altitude measures taken at the point of departure and the point of arrival, and the distance between the two points. Appendix A details the trigonometric relations which allow for these measures as well as the calculation of the angle formed by the target island above the horizon. In order to determine the probability for visibility, we have applied this formula to different pairs of islands, examining each time the situation on the departure island from shore level or from the best placed high point on the island. The choice of best placed high point is taken based on maps which do not give extremely detailed topography. The following tables present, for a relative sea level of -50m, the distances between islands, the altitudes of the best choice of elevation points, and the angle of elevation above the horizon if the target island is visible. Data are described as follows :


17 Figure 6: Wallacea: current sea level

18 Figure 7: Wallacea: -30 meters

19 Figure 8: Wallacea: -50 meters

20 Figure 9: Wallacea: -80 meters

Distance (present): distance between the source and the target islands at present time Distance (-50m): distance between the source and target islands with a sea level 50m lower than today d (for h ): distance between the most appropriate extremity of the source island and the most appropriate summit of the target island hlim (with h = 2m): critical height to be found on the target island for being visible from the source island by a human at sea level h : height of the most appropriate summit on the target island : apparent angle of the target island above horizon d (for h and h ): distance between the most adequate summits on the source and target islands h: height of the summit on the source island h : height of the summit on the target island hlim : critical height to be found on the target island for being visible from the source island by a human at height h : as above Because we presuppose that visibility during crossings between islands separated by only a few kilometers was not dicult, we will study only those crossings which can be considered signicantly dicult. Distances are expressed in kilometers, heights in meters and angle in minute of angle. It should be mentioned that climatic and optical factors could slightly modify the values presented here. Our calculations reveal that there is a northern route which seems to always oer visibility of the target island from shore level (Birdsells route 1-A). This would indicate the possibility to navigate ` a vue during the entire crossing. Furthermore, the islands would have been even more visible if viewed from an elevated point of the source island. As for the island of Timor or neighboring islands up to Tanimbar, the possibility of seeing Sahul from sea level is zero, no matter which time period or which sea level (even at the level of the last glacial period). From the highest point on Timor (3,000 meters), the limit distance for visibility is nearly 190 kilometers. However, the very low altitude of reefs more than 120 kilometers away results in an angle above the horizon too close from eye limits (a little more than 1 minute of angle) to expect visibility, forgetting all atmospheric perturbations above water (see appendix). Even at the last glacial maximum, Australian coastline was invisible from Timor. These results are in agreement with Irwins data. Measures were taken from our database (see 4.3.1) and the available topological maps. The results are, however, quite robust, since the numerical results for visibility for southern routes are most often very far from limit values, at least on sea levels. Evans (personal communication) proposes that natural Australian res produced smoke columns which could have indicated the Australian coast to inhabitants of Timor. Such columns could have reached very high in the sky, permitting their visibility at great distances. Even today, the aboriginal populations gather much information in this manner. It is dicult to estimate whether or not these res were visible from Timor, but with sea level of -40 meters or -50 meters, the smoke would have had to reach considerable heights (more than 3000 meters) in order to be visible from shore level. 21

Source & Target Islands

Distance Distance d (for (present) (-50m) h)

hlim (h = 2m)

d (for h and h )


22 400 42 64 98 230 200 38 60 70 100 200 46 62 100 100 2554 111 216 603 603

128 178 95 40 32 32 38 32 38 76 28 96 51 65 120 36 146 56 138 46 240 70 112 115 50 200 400 154 50 7 10 3000 426 850 473 3013 950 350 290

115 65 90 30 26 65 34 16 22 66 20 70 42 48 108 28

140 75 123 44 40 239 38 28 49 82 34 98 48 63 130 38

1221 853 932 100 81 455 71 34 128 395 55 578 122 223 1046 71

3275 326 1660 950 250 250 400 408 662 2780 552 615 200 473 200 138

50 24 20 66 14 11 30 46 37 100 50 1 6 14 6

552 200 200 138 50 200 154 50

0 0 45 0 55 0 108 165

13 12 4 10 10 1

Northern routes : Kalimantan - Sulawesi Kalimantan - Sulawesi Sula - Obi Obi - Halmahera Halmahera - Gebe Halmahera - Gebe Gebe - Gag Gag - Batangpele (Gebe-) Yu - Balabalak Sula - Buru Buru - Seram (Manipa) Seram - Misool Tioor - Kaimeer Tioor - Kur Kai - Sahul shelf near Kep. Aru Kur - Tayandu Southern routes : Timor/Roti - Sahul shelf Timor - Leti Sermata - Babar Masela - Kep. Tanimbar Kep. Tanimbar - Sahul shelf

Halmahera Kalimantan Sulawesi Peleng Kep. Banggai Obi Sula Buru Gebe Yu Gag



Misool Manipa Seram Kep. Gorong Kep. Watubela (Tioor) Tioor Kaimeer Kur Kep. Aru Tayandu Kep. Kai


Lombok/Sumbawa Kep. Solor dan Alor Peninda Flores/Lomblen Timor/Roti Sahul shelf

Sahul shelf Kep. Tanimbar Kep. Leti Masela Sermata Babar

Figure 10: Names of islands for northern and southern routes


Regarding distances, one should note the presence of several reef located between Timor/Roti and the Australian shelf that were probably above water during lower sea level [But89] (map p.20-21). These reefs, if they oered useful resources, would have broken the large distance to Australia into several smaller routes and would hence have facilitated the crossing. Sea-crossing diculties for the routes toward PNG via the north along the Wallacea islands and for the more southern routes toward northwest Australia do not evolve similarly with sealevel variations. If one follows the decreasing sea levels from the interglacial episode 120,000 years ago, the earlier the conquest of Australia, the easier was migration along the northern routes compared to passages by more southern passages. This is true for distances. As for visibility, crossings ` a vue were possible following a northern route, even for very low droppings of sea level. This is not the case for southern routes. We conclude, then, that the older the conquest of Sahul, the more likely that the rst migration was toward PNG. We also add that even for a migration around 70,000 or 65,000 BP, or for later migrations with lower sea-levels, the crossing between Timor/Roti and Australia does not seem to us as short as it has sometimes been said in the literature, and remains harder than a northern route. For small distances between islands, shermen sailing a few kilometers o-shore may have been able to see islands not visible from their point of departure [Nicholas Evans, personal communication]. Nevertheless, for longer distances (tens of kilometers), this possibility does not apply.


Synthesis and discussion

An old and intentional crossing of populations from Asia

The visibility calculations given above favor a conquest of Sahul from the north via the Wallacea islands, with an arrival in PNG and not along the cost of northwest Australia. As is true for Birdsells proposal, this proposed crossing is not hindered by sea levels slightly lower than current levels (thus, in particular before 70,000 BP). Thus, they are even more preferred to southern routes for which the distances to cross to reach Australia are too long, and for which visibility of target coastline is not possible. It is possible to claim that the rst migrants may have arrived very early on Sunda and would have spent considerable time there before reaching Australia, increasing the possibility of repeated accidental crossings to Australia. It is for this reason that the following paragraphs attempt to marshall supplementary arguments which favor the route via PNG and also dates before 65,000 BP (these two propositions are relatively independent). We will also propose that the crossing were done by boat and with intention, with groups consciously attempting to reach a certain destination and not simply being pushed haphazardly amongst the Wallacea Islands by winds or sea currents. This hypothesis is based largely on the visibility of the destination: the groups taking to sea had a xed goal, were able to sight their destination and did not leave the shore without knowing where they would arrive, 24

knowing the navigational diculties. Other migrations as migratory birds (Coco island are ) What reasons could have lead to such travels ? Ordinary reasons, like extension of shing territories, demographic pressure, or more exceptional events : social conicts like steals of women (as observed in the northern territories of Australia today [Nicholas Evans, personal communication]), or natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions (as they happened nearly uninterrupted for the last 100,000 years in the Indonesian region and also in the north of PNG). 5.1.1 Rafts and sea currents

The current populations of Tasmania or Australia have at their disposal a wide range of navigational means. Birdsell [Bir77] provides very precise details on dierent types of constructions. It would appear that these vessels are less advanced than those which would have permitted the rst crossing more than 60,000 years ago. In particular, they are not resistant enough to support crossings of more than ten kilometers, losing their ability to oat after a few hours of navigation. The crossings must have been very dicult, with many failures and loses. The chances of success for such passages are much higher, however, if we accept that the crossings were planned with full intention of the sailors. Vessels specically prepared for such crossings would be more resistant and more easily handled than vessels caught by chance in the currents. As mentioned earlier, an intentionally planned voyage would have allowed many groups to sail simultaneously with boats tied together, increasing the number of individuals which favors the possibility of survival at destination. Planning would also have insured enough drinkable water and food, in appropriate containers. Birdsell calculates approximately 30 hours are necessary to cover 100 kilometers. It is conceivable that the early navigators could have gone without food and water for such a short period. However, it is dicult to claim that all parts of the crossings required such a short time. In addition, prepared food and water would be extremely useful in initial stages after arrival. It is dicult to determine the evolution of sea currents during the last glacial episode: closing of the Torres straights and variations in sea level and tides could yield a picture much dierent from the one which we now have. Regarding winds, Irwin [Irw92] proposes that the contemporary climatic pattern (and also currents) applied quite similarly to Pleistocene, and hence favoured island-hopping with predictable seasonal winds reversal and few cyclones. 5.1.2 Site locations and coastal movements

One argument for a crossing between Sunda and Sahul during a short period of time is the absence of sites on the Wallacea Islands before 40,000 BP (Leang Burung 2 (31,000 BP) at Sulawesi, Niah Cave (40,000 BP) and Tingkayu (28,000 BP) in Kalimatan) [Bow92]. Some sites may be located underwater today, but a sustained presence on these islands would most certainly have left more remains. The lands that emerged with the decrease in sea level are much smaller than those in northwest Australia for example.


We have already noted the oldest Australian datings. Around 60,000 BP, evidence for the presence of humans is found both close to the current coastline of northwest Australia, but in places that were considerably in the interior when sea level was lower (more than 100 kilometers), and in the opposite direction within the Lake Mungo region. Based on such a distribution, it is not possible to conclude that the sites in the northwest are in all likelihood the rst traces left by the migrants. In addition, older sites are very likely now submerged under water (cf. the maps given earlier). A principal question revolves around the estimation necessary for the populations arriving in the Northern Territory or in PNG to spread to the southeast of Australia. Some authors propose a very rapid expansion on the continent, in the absence of competition with other humain species. In 1957, Birdsell attempted to model the expansion of a small founding group and concludes that some thousands of years would have been sucient to occupy the Australian continent with an already considerable density [Bir57]. Overall the expansion went from the north to the south. Bowdler [Bow77] proposes a dierent scenario and criticizes some of Birdsells arguments, in particular his optimism about the survival capacity of small groups of immigrants and the claim that the aborigines population of this century reected the degree of maximum saturation of the Australian environment. Bowdler defends the hypothesis of an expansion along the Sahul coastline, which was subsequently extended by following the waterways, and reaching, for example, Lake Mungo. Adaptation to non coastal regions or areas far from rivers would have taken place much later, through a long and necessary adaptation to other living conditions. This hypothesis ts best with current ideas about coastal migrations from Africa since this adaptation already present in Africa 120,000 years ago would nd a natural prolongation. Conquest of the interior regions of Australia must have been much slower and perhaps the intentional use of re for hunting purposes had not even begun when the rst immigrants arrived whose principal food source was the ocean. The consequence of such a scenario forces us to push back the date of the arrival of the rst immigrants, given the dierent paleontological evidence which appear to date sites located far from the coastline and indicating the use of re in Australia at close to 60,000 years ago. An arrival by the extreme northwest PNG requires a longer time span in order to obtain an expansion in Australia than an arrival by the northern territories. However we have argued that the rst human groups could have been more numerous than those accidentally drifting to Australia. 5.1.3 Paleoclimates and evidence of animal extinction

We have already seen that the oldest evidence of the use of re and extinction of animal species dates around 60,000 BP. Animal extinction can result from both modication of the environment (caused by a human presence or not) and hunting. A plausible scenario is a mixture of both these factors, with an ecological stress caused by a more arid climate (with a rst maximum at 70,000 BP [Ada97]), reinforced by human actions. Even if modications of the environment were rapid, an important human population density is required to justify extinctions of a species upon the entire continent and profound modications of the environ26

ment. Once again, the hypothesis of an adaptation to coastline living conditions precludes that this type of situation took place shortly after the arrival of the rst immigrants. If the dates close to 60,000 BP for animal extinctions or climatic modication are conrmed, then the rst arrival must have happened long before this date. 5.1.4 Genetic data

Analysis of nuclear, mitochondrial and Y chromosome DNA During the last ten years, with the development of genetic sequencing, studies have been carried out on the relationships between dierent human populations, in particular PNG, Australian and African populations, which interest us here. Our hypothesis of a precocious arrival in PNG could nd an echo in an important genetic drift of some PNG and Australian populations (if the migrations were subsequently extended towards Australia). Subsequent migrations could have masked this drift unless the oldest populations had entirely disappeared, leaving no genetic trace. The recent arrival of Austronesians (less than 5,000 years ago) has had a serious impact in PNG, but this concerns primarily the coastline populations, the Highland populations being less aected. A study by Redd and Stoneking on the mitochondrial DNA (hypervariable segments HV I and HV II of the control region) leads to this conclusion: the results from PNG Highlands suggest a very old arrival, followed by an isolation of these populations with a genetic drift. Coalescence time depth for the Highland populations is estimated at approximately 80,000 to 122,000 BP (depending on the dierent sequenced genetic clusters) [RS99]. One should be careful manipulating these date that they relate to genetic mutations, which are not correlated in time to movements of population. But, even with shifts of several thousand years, the great antiquity of these dates are in agreement with our proposal. However, the various publications on this subject are still quite contradictory and a rm conclusion is perhaps premature. Just as mtDNA allows to trace maternal lineages and mutations, the Y chromosome offers a possibility of investigating paternal lineages. Results from Underhill and al. [UPL+ 01] conrm the scenario of a migration from East Africa toward Australia and PNG, with the presence of the RPS4Y/M216 mutation (found in Asia, Australo-Melanesia and North America). This mutation is supposed to have occured en-route to southeast Asia, while the prior mutation M168 (common to all not exclusively African Y-chromosome) may have appeared in East Africa 50,000 to 40,000 years ago, with a 95 percent condence interval of (31,00079,000). As said by the author, this age is young in comparison with some archaeological ndings, and even more with our proposals. Haphazard sea crossings to northwest Australia and genetic drift The preceding paragraph illustrates how migration history can be written in genes (and also, perhaps, be masked by other subsequent migrations). As indicated above, many authors have examined the possibility of an extremely reduced number of individuals arriving on the 27

Australian shores, carried on their rafts from the Timor coast. Such slow arrival of few individuals in dierent regions would have led to a genetic bottleneck before demographic expansion occurred. Jones insists that any next arrival on the Australian coast breeding into the existing populations would have provided great genetic benets [Jon89], p.756. The current genetic consequences of such an arrival have apparently not yet been studied, but it seems reasonable that such a minimal genetic stock at the base of the Australian population would reveal itself today by a considerable isolation of Australians vis ` a vis other populations. This does not seem to be the case based upon current studies [SW89]. However, the rst immigrants might have been fully replaced by later populations, leaving no genetic traces. An intentional arrival of a large number of individuals would have also brought on a genetic drift as described before, although less important, and perhaps would have resulted in the genetic drift of the Highland PNG mentioned by Redd and Stoneking. New genetic studies and simulations should yield important data relevant to this question.


The case of the Andaman islands

Islands-hopping and use of boats have been intensively debated for decades in the Indonesian region. Since one of our goals is to relate the Australian conquest to a wider pattern nding its roots in Africa, it is interesting to look at other possibilities of sea-voyaging before reaching the Wallacea islands. Such occasions are rare, but the case of Andaman and Nicobar islands is worth being investigated. Located in the Gulf of Bengal, several hundred kilometers far from the continent, they constitute some of the emerged summits of a large submarine mountain range. With the decrease in sea level during the last glacial episode, the expansion of the continental shelf and the emergence of the mountain range reduced signicantly the distances to an odd 70 kilometers wide passage in the north of the Andaman islands (for a -60 meters relative sea level), the current islands of Preparis and Great Coco being located at the two closest extremity of this sea-crossing. Application of our formulas in this case, with an estimated current height for the islands of around 100 meters leads to the visibility of Great Coco Islands from an elevated point of the Preparis island (with an angle above horizon of around 10 minutes of angle). Populations migrating along the coastline may have seen these islands and tried to reach them, as they did in the Wallacea region later. Flights of migratory birds may also have been observed. The gures 11 and 12 depict the current situation and the paleo-geography with a -60 meters relative sea-level. On going studies of Andamanese DNA favour an early migration to the Andaman islands. The DNA extracted from Onge populations, with a mutation on chromosome Y connecting these tribes to african populations, suggest a very ancient origin of 50,000 to 60,000 years, while the currently sequenced DNA from Jarawa populations may indicate an even greater antiquity of these very isolated populations [Lalji Singh, personal communication]. The case of Nicobar islands falls in a dierent category than Andaman islands, since they were never visible from either the Andaman islands or the continents shell (more than 200 28

Figure 11: Andaman sea: current sea level

Figure 12: Andaman sea : -60 meters


kilometers far). Our point of intentional crossing would predict that DNA analysis of these indigenous populations would lead to dierent patterns than Andamanese populations. At least can we say that the linguistic pattern of these islands follows this proposal, since the Andamanese languages are unrelated to any neighboring languages, when the Nicobarese languages are undoubtedly Austroasiatic. If true, these hypotheses and data on Andaman islands would t in a very signicant way to our hypothesis of an ancient sea-voyaging culture acquired long before reaching Indonesia. It would increase the possibility of intentional sea-crossings between the numerous islands of Wallacea, by providing an earlier example of such travel.


Dierent scenarios for the peopling of Australia

If one accepts the fact that there was a rst migration to PNG, it is important to ask how Australia was populated. Was the conquest of Australia undertaken from PNG following the rst migration, or was it the result of other subsequent migrations? The current population of Australia results probably from many dierent migrations at dierent periods. After the initial migration, others must have occurred either from PNG or from other southern routes, particularly after 60,000 when sea level dropped considerably or with progresses in sailing. A number of hypotheses can be stated: The rst migrations to PNG did not spread to Australia. Australia was populated by other migrations, either from later migrations to PNG, or directly from the northwest shores of Australia, or both simultaneously The rst emigrants to PNG colonized Australia at the same time. They could have been replaced by subsequent migrations, or have mixed with earlier arrivals. Dierent arguments can be given in the attempt to draw the prole of these early migrations. 5.3.1 Ancient DNA

Bearing in mind some reservations about the contradictions in current genetic studies, there are a number of points which seem relevant to understanding migration into Australia. In Redd and Stonekings study, a clear genetic separation was observed between, on the one hand, the Highland PNG populations and the Australian aborigines, and on the other, between the Highland PNG populations and the rest of the world. Such a separation would be compatible with a very old migration out of Africa. Subsequent migrations would have served as the basis of current populations, including Australian aborigines. It is, then, possible that the rst arrivals to PNG were extremely isolated. A second possibility is that an expansion of these populations in Australia was subsequently replaced by new waves of immigrants, with genetic heritage being preserved only in the PNG Highlands. Redd and Stoneking suggest, in fact, a genetic proximity between the Australian aborigines populations and those of the Indian subcontinent, with dates of genetic divergence being very recent (a few thousands years). Other articles have stated the large number of private


polymorphisms and the high mean heterozygosity of PNG populations, consistent in part with geographic isolation, especially for the Highlands, and the thinness of the link between australian and PNG populations [SW89]. Another very recent study of mitochondrial DNA of old Australian fossils measures the distance between these fossils and the current human populations [ADE+ 01]. The analysis was carried out on the MtDNA on the LM III Mungo fossil, more recent agile or robust Australian fossils (after 15 ka), current populations (Cambridge reference sequence or CRS), Feldhofer and Mezmaiskaya Neanderthals, and chimpanzees and bonobos. The MtDNA of the LM III fossil appears to place it in a lineage which does not appear in modern populations except in a segment of chromosome 11 (nuclear DNA). This lineage probably diverged before the most recent common ancestor of all current human populations. All of the other Australian fossils descend from this common ancestor. It appears, then, that LM III belonged to a population which did not leave a genetic heritage in the current populations. To reiterate our remarks about the preceding article, it is possible that LM III was part of an old wave of immigration to PNG that subsequently expanded in Australia. However, based on the results of Adcock & al., LM III should be placed in a lineage other than that of current PNG people. If the results of this article are conrmed in subsequent research, it is possible to envision the following two hypotheses: The Highland Papuans carry part of the genetic heritage of a very old migration, dierent from the heritage of which LM III is a part. There could have been then very old migrations of populations representing dierent genetic lineages, with extinction of one but not the other. Replicating Adcocks analysis not only with CRS, but also with the MtDNA of Highland populations would lead to a closer relationship between the PNG and LM III than between other world populations and the PNG Highland Papouans. The trees show actually a strong sensibility to the selected parameters and sequences and the addition of a supplementary sequence can considerably modify the most probable trees, particularly if it is rather distinct from others (the aborigines sequence is distinct from that of CRS, for example). 5.3.2 Lithic industries

The lithic industries found along the Huon peninsula are very dierent from those attested for the rest of Australia and for the Sunda region. The most commonly found tools are of small size, whereas certain of those found in Huon are rather large and thin. They are called waisted blade types and can weight up to 2.9 kilos (cf. photo P 763 in [Jon89]. Bowdler comments that the Huon assemblage includes large waisted types, which have not been found elsewhere in a similar aged context and indeed are known from very few places over all [Bow92] (P 570). Remember that the terraces where these objects were found are dated between 50,000 and 60,000 BP. Despite the fact that according to Bowdler there is a certain uniform characters of the lithic industries found in dierent Australian site, a very old PNG industry appears to contrast with the other Australian lithic productions. 31


Linguistic and cultural elements in Australia and PNG

As is true for current genetic evidence, the ndings concerning cultural elements should be taken with some reserve. Given that the period of rst migrations is very old, cultural and technological traces could have totally disappeared. We have already pointed out that aborigines and Tasmanian boats could not sail the expanses of water that were crossed more than 60,000 years ago. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile noting some evidence that can enlighten our knowledge of Sahuls old population. Linguistic data The study of the genetic relationships between Australian languages and languages outside of Australia has not yet yielded convincing results. All of the aliations proposed over the last 150 years are extremely precarious and following Dixon, only the hypothesized relationship between Australian languages and Dravidian languages was deserving attention 1 [Dix80]. This runs in parallel to Redd and Stonekings results pointed out earlier. Foley looked specically at the relations between PNG languages of the Eastern Highland and Australian language by examining possible cognate words between the two language families [Fol86]. He concludes, however, that the number of correlations is too weak to draw clear conclusions. Thus, it is dicult to give an adequate picture of the linguistic relationship between PNG and Australians. It seems that the time depth considered (even if PNG and Australia were still connected about 10,000 years ago) is too large for linguistic data to be useful. Burial rites An interesting remark made by Thorne concerns the burial site of LM III fossil (at Lake Mungo). When asked whether the skeletal remains are those of a man or of a woman, many Australian aborigines answer without hesitation that the way in which the skeleton is positioned (ngers intertwined and hands on the lower abdomen) corresponds to the ritual position used today for men. It is surprising that such a cultural convention should have survived close to 60,000 years. This gives additional indication that cultural elements characteristic of the period and the populations of LM III could have been transferred during the course of dierent migrations. Even if these populations were replaced, as we argued above, cultural conventions could have been exchanged during contact. It would be interesting in this respect to compare PNG and aborigines burial sites to ascertain whether or not similarities emerge. Adaptation to rain forests The Australian ecological environment contrasts greatly with that of PNG. This is true now and was probably true during the Pleistocene era. PNG has a type of rain forest that is absent in Australia. In the Highlands middle or high mountain, altitude forest environments are found. Adaptation to life in the equatorial forest must have required quite a long time. We can mention the sites discovered in New Ireland [AGJW88] and in New England

Dixon himself does not hold this position any more


[PG94]. These sites, dated between 30,000 and 40,000 BP provide an example of a very old adaptation to an equatorial forest of low altitude, despite that fact as Pavlides points out, rain forests have until recently been considered empty of human population before the end of the Holocene era. An explanation for the genetic isolation of the PNG Highland (and in fact for their overall isolation in general) can be found in a successful adaptation to a rain forest and subsequently to the Highlands (cf. the more adequate lithical industries, see above the tools on the Huon peninsula and below, Groubes hypothesis concerning their usage). This progressive adaptation would have kept them separated from other populations migrating along the coastline. A division could have taken place among these rst emigrants, with one part moving progressively into the PNG interior, while the others continued their route towards Australia by exploiting sea resources.


Some hypotheses about the date of language emergence

To conclude our discussion, it is tempting to make some hypotheses about the role that language could have played during the rst migrations. Use of an elaborate communication system could have been benecial to the rst emigrants in a number of ways. First of all, and in agreement with the hypothesis concerning an intentionally organized crossing, it would have permitted individuals to better plan their movements, and to agree about the construction of boats and their usage. This language would have allowed the transmission, the amelioration and the long term establishment of a body of knowledge necessary for the constructions of such vessels. Davidson and Noble even estimate that language is necessary for the building of a boat and for the emerging picture of the symbolic and representational abilities of the earliest people in the Australian region [DN92] p.140. Finally, and perhaps more hypothetically, language might have played an important role in elaborating the reasons which pushed the emigrants to move from island to island. For example, beliefs and myths could have encouraged individuals to seek new lands even when the currently occupied land provided sucient resources. The hypothesis of rapid movement may correlate with the lack of old archeological sites on the Wallacea islands (compared to Australia), with longer periods of occupation of these islands increasing the possibility of nding sites. The vast number of islands to cross corroborates this as well (as mentioned early it is possible to argue that this number of islands simply required a very long time of migration). Of course, these hypotheses are highly tenuous and our goal in discussing them is to suggest original, albeit provocative, ideas. Before concluding and as a follow up on the ideas concerning an already sophisticated language, it seems important to insist on the probably very culturally developed emigrants to Sahul. The use of pigments seems conrmed on the Nauwalabila site, dating from over 50,000 years ago. In Mungo, traces of red ochre in the burial grounds of LM III, and even the presence of this burial site bears witness to a consciousness of death and some metaphysical notions, and this earlier than 60,000 BP. A developed language oers a very strong means of transmitting concepts, not to mention the necessary means for the original elaboration of 33

such concepts. Many studies have insisted on the probable development of PNG populations many tens of thousands of years ago. Groube et al. analyze tools from the Huon peninsula (see above), and propose that they were used to cut down trees on the edge of forests. Bringing light to the soil would have favored the growth and expansion of various kinds of consumable plants, such as sugar cane or bananas [GCMP86]. This supports the idea of a very old and intentional modication of the environment (as re in Australia) to be compared by Jones to development in Europe: . . . it is quite astonishing to consider that people in New Guinea were using such tools and modifying their environment in such a way at a time when there were still Neanderthal people occupying western Europe [Jon92] (p. 297).


During the course of this article, we have attempted to develop the following ideas: (i) the rst migration to old Greater Australia was headed towards PNG and not towards current Australia, (ii) this rst migration was very old, between 70,000 and 100,000 BP, (iii) the migration was intentional, the emigrants crossing the islands could see the successive sites of colonization, their behavior is the result of cultural and technological developments obtained during the course of migration outside of Africa, (iv) an already sophisticated language could have played a role in the migration, assuring the transmission of culture and technological knowledge between humans, (v) this migration was followed by other migrations, either by the same or by other routes, with perhaps isolation of the rst arrivals from subsequent arrivals in PNG. These hypotheses can be considered independently, but their combination increases the overall coherence. Future discoveries of older site in Australia or in PNG could strengthen or weaken these hypotheses. In particular, few excavations have been undertaken in PNG and our propositions would imply that important information may be found in the northwestern part of the island. Pushing back the dates of rst human presence would permit a ner understanding of the condition inherent in the Out of Africa theory and to better compare the expansion of modern man to Asia and to Europe, in particular from the point of view of cultural and technological characteristics of the populations. The very old use of red ochre, burial sites such as LM III in Mungo, or even the old development of PNG populations are particularly good pieces of evidence for an ancient symbolic life, with a rich cultural dimension and probably with a sophisticated language underlying it.



R=6378 km
d = distance entre S1 et S2 d



Figure 13: Tangential look at the surface of the glove

Appendix A. Calculus of visibility between two points

With our knowledge of the topographic of the Wallacea region, it is possible to evaluate whether or not a point of arrival was visible from a point of departure. Figure 11 shows a simple modelling of an individual at an altitude h on an island or on a boat and looking out to sea. We examine the possibility of perceiving an element situated at a distance d and elevated at a height h. To do this, we presuppose that the limit condition is a tangential look at the surface of the glove, taking into consideration that Earth is round. Two trigonometrical relations in the two rectangular triangles that appear in Figure 9 R et cos(b) = R+ . If the distance d is small, the angles a lead to two formula: cos(a) = RR +h h and b are small. By linearizing the two cosinus, we obtain (if h and h neglected compared to R): a=
2h R

et b =

2h R

With d = cR and c = a + b, we arrive at the relation: d = 2R( h + h ) Until now, we have presupposed that the propagation of light rays was rectilinear. This is not the case however due to the structure of the atmosphere which brings a refraction and curving of the rays. To take account of this, it is necessary to modify the constant 2R by considering an eective radius superior to the earth radius by about a 4/3 ratio (the value 35

for radio waves). The numerical application, with h, h in meters and d in kilometers gives the relation: d = 4.12( h + h ) This formula is used to calculate visibility by the French navigation services [Service Hydrographique et Oc eanographique de la Marine, personal communication]. Only the numerical value changes, since it is estimated at 3.85 for a mean value of ray refraction by the atmosphere (the refraction layer can be more or less high, depending on the characteristics of the atmospheric blanket). In this calculation we suppose perfect visibility and ignore water vapour absorption, which is more pronounced at sea than on land and which can diminish distance of visibility. For an observer situated at altitude h, is would be possible to perceive land at a distance 2 d d if his elevation h is superior to the limit value hlim = ( 3.85 h) . This constitutes the optimal case. The condition limit is not at all pertinent for taking into account the possibility of sighting a target island. The island must be high enough on the horizon to be perceived. The resolution capacity of the human eye is around 1 minutes of angle. A superior value (large enough) is required in order for the target to be visible. We can calculate roughly the angle of elevation above the horizon of the target using the parameters d, h and h. The formula is as follows (with, as usual, some linearization due to the weak angles a and b): = arctan h hlim d

Where is the expected angle expressed in radians, and hlim the limit value previously calculated.


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[Bir57] [Bir77]


[Bow92] [But89] [Cal76]

[Car] [Cha74]

[COM+ 94] J. Chappel, A. Omura, M. McCulloch, T. Esat, Y. Ota, and J. Pandol. Study on coral reef terraces of the Huon Peninsula, Papua New Guinea: establishment of Quaternary sea level and tectonic history, chapter Revised Late Quaternary sea levels between 70 and 30 ka from coral terraces at Huon Peninsula, pages 155165. Yokohama: Department of Geography, Yokohama National University, 1994. [Cou01] Christophe Coupe. Migrations humaines pr ehistoriques, mod elisations et aspects informatiques. submitted to Techniques et Sciences Informatiques (numero special Vie articielle), 2001.

[CSMP93] Luigi L. Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza. Demic expansions and human evolution. Science, 259:639646, 29 January 1993. [CSW87] R. Cann, M. Stoneking, and A. Wilson. Mitochondrial dna and human evolution. Nature, 325:3136, 1987.


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[GCMP86] L. Groube, J. Chappell, J. Muke, and D. Price. A 40,000 year-old human occupation site at huon peninsula, papua new guinea. Nature, 324:453455, 1986. [Irw92] Georey Irwin. The prehistoric exploration and colonisation of the Pacic. Cambridge University Press, 1992.

[JMF+ 99] B.J. Johnson, G.H Miller, M.L. Fogel, J.W. Magee, M.K. Gagan, and A.R. Chivas. 65,000 years of vegetation change in central australia and the australian summer monsoon. Science, 284:115052, 14 May 1999. [Jon89] Rhys Jones. The human revolution: Behavioural and biological perspectives on the origins of modern humans, chapter East of Wallaces Line: Issues and problems in the colonization of the Australian continent, pages 743782. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989. Rhys Jones. Continuity or replacement: Controversies in Homo Sapiens Evolution, chapter The human colonization of the Australian continent, pages 289301. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema, 1992. J. Kingdon. Self-Made Man and his Undoing. Simon and Schuster, London, 1993. Richard G. Klein. The Human Career, Human Biological and Cultural Origins. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago and London, 1999. Kurt Lambeck and John Chappell. Sea level cahnge through the last glacial cycle. Science, 292:679686, 27 April 2001. Marta Mirazon Lahr and Robert Foley. Multiple dispersals and modern human origins. Evolutionary Anthropology, 3:4860, 1994.

[Jon92] [Kin93] [Kle99] [LC01] [LF94]

[MMJ+ 99] Giod H. Miller, John W. Magee, Beverly J. Johnson, Marilyn L. Fogel, Nigel A. Spooner, Malcom T. McCulloch, and Linda K. Aylie. Pleistocene extinction of genyornis newtoni: Human impact on australian megafauna. Science, 283:205208, 8 January 1999. [MST76] [Mur84] N. McArthur, I. W. Saunders, and R.L. Tweedie. Small population isolates: a micro-simulation study. Journal of the Polynesian Society, 85:307326, 1976. Peter Murray. Quaternary extinctions: A prehistoric revolution, chapter Extinctions Downunder: A Bestiary of Extinct Australian Late Pleistocene Monotremes and Marsupials, pages 600628. Tucson: University of Arizona Press., 1984. J. OConnell and J. Allen. When did humans rst arrive in greater australia and why it is important to know ? Evolutionary Anthropology, 7:13246, 1998. Christina Pavlides and Chris Gosden. 35,000-year-old sites in the rainforests of west new britain, papua new guinea. Antiquity, 68:60410, 1994.

[OA98] [PG94]

[RBO+ 98] R.G Roberts, M. Bird, J. Olley, R. Galbraith, E. Lawson, G. Laslett, H. Yoshida, R. Jones, R.L.K. Fullagar, G. Jacobsen, and Q. Hua. Optical and radiocarbon dating at jinmium rock shelter in northern australia. Nature, 393:358362, 1998. [RJS90] Richard G. Roberts, Rhys Jones, and M.A. Smith. Thermoluminescence dating of a 50,000 year-old human occupation site in northen australia. Nature, 345:153156, 1990.



Richard G. Roberts, Rhys Jones, and M.A. Smith. Beyond the radiocarbon barrier in australian prehistory. Antiquity, 68:61116, 1994.

[RJS+ 94b] Richard G. Roberts, Rhys Jones, Nigle A. Spooner, M.J. Head, Andrew S. Murray, and M.A. Smith. The human colonisation of australia: optical dates of 53,000 and 60,000 years bracket human arrival at deaf adder gorge, northern territory. Quaternary Science Reviews (Quaternary Geochronology), 13:575583, 1994. [RS99] [Sha87] [SKC81] Alan J. Redd and Mark Stoneking. Peopling of sahul: mtdna variation in aboriginal australian and papua new guinean populations. AM. J. Hum. Genet., 65:808828, 1999. N. J. Shackleton. Oxygen isotopes, ice volumes and sea level. Quaternary Science Reviews, 6:183190, 1987. G. Singh, A.P. Kershaw, and R. Clark. re and the Australian Biota, chapter Quaternary vegetation and re history in Australia, pages 2354. Canberra: Australian Academy of Science, 1981. Chris Stringer. Coasting out of africa. Nature, 405:2427, May 4 2000. Mark Stoneking and A.C. Wilson. The colonization of the Pacic: a genetic trail, chapter Mitochondrial DNA, pages 215245. Oxford University Press, 1989. Terrainbase, global 5-minute ocean depth and land elevation. National Geophysical Data Center.

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[TGM 99] Alan Thorne, R. Grun, G. Mortimer, N.A. Spooner, J.J. Simpson, M. McCulloch, L. Taylor, and D. Curnoe. Australias oldest human remains: age of the lake mungo 3 skeleton. Journal of Human Evolution, 36(6):591612, June 1999. [Thr80] [TR89] [TW92] Alan G. Throne. The Cambridge encyclopaedia of archaeology, chapter The arrival of man in Australia, pages 96100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. Alan G. Thorne and R. Raymond. Man on the Rim: The Peopling of the Pacic. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1989. Alan G. Thorne and M.H. Wolpo. The multiregional evolution of humans. Scientic American, 266:7683, April 1992.

[UPL+ 01] P.A. Underhill, G. Passarino, A.A. Lin, P. Shen, M. Mirazon Lahr, R.A. Foley, P.J. Oefner, and L.L. Cavalli-Sforza. The phylogeography of y chromosome binary haplotypes and the origins of modern human populations. Annals of Human Genetics, 65:4362, 2001. [Van92] Bernard Vandermeersch. The evolution and dispersal of modern humans in Asia, chapter The Near Eastern Hominids and the Origins of Modern Humans in Eurasia, pages 2938. Tokyo: Hokusen-Sha, 1992.

[WBB+ 00] Robert C. Walter, Richard T. Buer, J. Henrich Bruggemann, Mireille M.M. Guillaume, Seife M. Berhe, Berhane Negassi, Yoseph Libsekal, Hai Cheng, Lawrence Edwards, Rudo von Cosel, Didier Neraudeau, and Mario Gagnon. Early human occupation of the red sea coast of eritrea during the last interglacial. Nature, 405:6569, May 4 2000. [WO79] [Wri86] J.P. White and J.F. OConnell. Australian prehistory: new aspects of antiquity. Science, 203:21 28, 1979. R.V.S Wright. How old is zone f at lake george ? Archaeology in Oceania, 21:138139, 1986.