A ~10,000-Year Record of Plant Foods at Matja Kuru 2, Timor-Leste

St. John's College, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

The orthodox story of Neolithicisation in Island Southeast Asia, an expansion of Austronesian-speaking agriculturalists and a package of technologies and domesticates from Taiwan, has long been challenged. The agricultural element of this ‘Neolithic package’, including domestic rice and millet, chickens and pigs, are not evidenced alongside the expansion of Austronesian-speakers ~3,500 years ago. Instead, these populations have been argued to be maritime traders, acquiring carbohydrates from Indigenous populations already cultivating a range of root and tree crops. However, there is limited archaeological evidence for local traditions of plant exploitation in this region; local plant use is inferred from linguistic and ethnographic sources, supported by very limited archaeobotanical data. Re-excavations of Matja Kuru 2, an inland rockshelter in Timor-Leste, included the flotation of the Holocene layers of the site. This paper will present the results of the archaeobotanical analysis of this assemblage, including evidence for the use of a range of plant carbohydrates and fats. Spanning the last ~10,000 years, the archaeobotanical evidence from this site provides new insights into local traditions of plant exploitation and the spread of domesticates in the region.