Making the Most of the Dates We Have: Bayesian Modelling to Investigate Pre-Neolithic Homo sapiens Settlement Patterns in the Islands of Wallacea

Shimona Kealy & Sue O’Connor

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, Australia

Stretching between the continental shelves of Sunda (mainland Southeast Asia) and Sahul (Australia-New Guinea) is the biogeographic region of Wallacea. Notable for their continued isolation from both continents, the islands of the Wallacean Archipelago are of significance to archaeologists as they represent the first serious sea-crossing challenges faced by early modern humans on their dispersal out of Africa. Much of the archaeological research and dating efforts in this region have focused on ‘initial arrival’ of peoples in the region; the first hominins, first modern humans, first Austronesians. While significant, this focus often obscures interesting patterns of occupation, and abandonment/re-colonisation events on the many distinctly different islands of Wallacea. Here we compile a wide-ranging dataset of Wallacean archaeological sites, occupation assemblages, and scientific dates ranging from the initial arrival of early modern humans through to the beginning of the Neolithic period. This dataset is then analysed using the Bayesian modelling application OxCal to maximise the available temporal data from each site. This approach has the potential to better explore patterns of inter- and intra-island occupation, and test hypothesised patterns in Wallacean occupation, while revealing gaps and biases in our current datasets.