September 04, 2008

No modern behavioral "package" in Pleistocene Sahul

Wikipedia on Sahul Shelf.
Journal of Human Evolution Volume 55, Issue 2, August 2008, Pages 187-222

The revolution that didn't arrive: A review of Pleistocene Sahul

Phillip J. Habgood and Natalie R. Franklin

Abstract

There is a “package” of cultural innovations that are claimed to reflect modern human behaviour. The introduction of the “package” has been associated with the Middle-to-Upper Palaeolithic transition and the appearance in Europe of modern humans. It has been proposed that modern humans spread from Africa with the “package” and colonised not only Europe but also southern Asia and Australia (McBrearty and Brooks, 2000; Mellars, 2006a). In order to evaluate this proposal, we explore the late Pleistocene archaeological record of Sahul, the combined landmass of Australia and Papua New Guinea, for indications of these cultural innovations at the earliest sites. It was found that following initial occupation of the continent by anatomically and behaviourally modern humans, the components were gradually assembled over a 30,000-year period. We discount the idea that the “package” was lost en route to Sahul and assess the possibility that the “package” was not integrated within the material culture of the initial colonising groups because they may not have been part of a rapid colonisation process from Africa. As the cultural innovations appear at different times and locations within Sahul, the proposed “package” of archaeologically visible traits cannot be used to establish modern human behaviour. Whilst the potential causal role of increasing population densities/pressure in the appearance of the “package” of modern human behaviour in the archaeological record is acknowledged, it is not seen as the sole explanation because the individual components of the “package” appear at sites that are widely separated in space and time.

Link

5 comments:

Maju said...

... the proposed “package” of archaeologically visible traits cannot be used to establish modern human behaviour.

I agree with this. Otherwise it is like measuring humanity by wearing a tie, makeup or high heels. Even when comparing technological elements, it's like comparing a fork with food sticks. They can be just different options within a wide array of possible good choices, similarly efficient and certainly made by the same kind of animal.

terryt said...

"We discount the idea that the 'package' was lost en route to Sahul and assess the possibility that the 'package' was not integrated within the material culture of the initial colonising groups because they may not have been part of a rapid colonisation process from Africa". Have you heard that idea somewhere else, Maju?

Maju said...

Maybe, Terry. But that's very weak as evidence of anything. I'd rather think that the ambiguous "package" is just an Eurocentric bias: we studied UP Europe before anything and somehow decided that the rest should abide by the standards found locally - what obviously seems not to be the case.

South Central Haplo said...

The package may provide some idea about expansion during stone age.

Package is preserved in Europe as most of the population is inlands.

Southern dispersal is spread along the coast and some of the proof is lost.

Looking at the PC2 thread on Europe. A similar analysis of PC2 500 SNP across China, Indian Coast, Indian tribes and Middle class, SE Asia , Australia and Sahul will provide clear idea.

eurologist said...

In the case of Europe, people had 20,000 years to assemble a package. Not only did they have the time (while they were waiting until about 45,000 to 50,000 years ago for the climate to change to allow entry, and for population pressure in India and Pakistan to make them move), much of the package was required before AMHs could actually enter.

I.e., adaption to cold environments (long-term preservation and storage of food), transportation devices for water (to cross the deserts in the way), re-adaption to big-game hunting (required along stretches of the journey), and weaponry and war tactics to disperse the existing inhabitants (who initially had better knowledge of local whether, geography, and resources), to name a few.