Advances in Human Evolutionary Studies in the Indo-Pacific Regions: New Questions Arising From Recent Discoveries

During the 20th Century, Homo erectus was the only major archaic hominin species known from the Indo-Pacific region, and under the multiregional perspectives of modern human origins, this region had been largely regarded as “periphery”. Recent discoveries of Homo floresiensis on Flores, Homo luzonensis on Luzon, and other fossils and artifacts from India, southwest China, Taiwan, Sulawesi and elsewhere, as well as the development of refined chronologies have dramatically changed our perception of regional hominin diversity and biogeography during the Early−Middle Pleistocene. The rise of Out of Africa theory of modern human origins has also posed interesting questions regarding the arrival, dispersal, and adaptation of our species to diverse regional environments including rainforests, deserts, and offshore islands. Overall, the Indo-Pacific region can no longer be regarded as “periphery” but rather as a “frontier” of Pleistocene human evolution and dispersals. How hominins of different evolutionary grades pioneered these challenging environments at various times during the past are questions both challenging and exciting for constructing a deeper understanding of human evolution.

Kaifu Yousuke

Prof. Kaifu Yousuke is a biological anthropologist specialising in human evolution in Asia. Born in 1969, he was educated at the University of Tokyo (BSc, 1992; MSc, 1994) and received his DSc in 1999 from the same university. As a professor at The University Museum, University of Tokyo, Kaifu studies fossils of Homo erectus, Homo floresiensis, other archaic hominins, and early modern humans, with a focus on evolutionary changes, human biological diversity, and developments in humanity. He often works with specialists from other research fields, such as archaeology, primatology, and Quaternary science, to contribute diverse inter-disciplinary perspectives on human evolutionary histories and behavioural changes. From 2016 to 2019, when he was a researcher at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Kaifu carried out an experimental voyage project to unravel the mysteries of Palaeolithic voyaging in East Asia. As the chief editor, Kaifu published Emergence and Diversity of Modern Human Behavior in Paleolithic Asia (Texas A&M Univ. Press, 2015).