The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Climatic-volcanic framework for early hominin endemism on Sunda


1Anthropology, University of Iowa, 2Helios Laser, Cleveland, OH

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Homo erectus colonized the emergent Eurasian Pleistocene landmass, Sunda, before 1.5 Ma, and underwent an adaptive radiation across subsequent regional oscillations and events. This research establishes a climate- and volcanism-based framework for Sunda Homo erectus diversification and endemism. Two major climatic cycling shifts anchor the sequence.

At MIS 23 (~0.9 Ma), the Mid-Pleistocene Revolution brought a significant change in climatic cycling, preserved at the Solo (Java), Soa (Flores), and Cagayan (Luzon) basins as major faunal turnover events (MIS 23-20). The Bose (Guangxi) evidence also lies within this time frame. Mid-Pleistocene Revolution events may have definitively isolated hominin groups, including Solo Homo erectus, emergent Homo floresiensis, and the species represented in Callao (Luzon, Philippines). After MIS 20, no evidence is known for several hundred thousand years, as the low-amplitude, evenly-phased 100-kyr climate cycles were not conducive to the preservation of open-air sites. Fortunately, at MIS 11 (~0.4 Ma), the Mid-Brunhes Event climate cycle changes may have hastened regional karst development. This in turn lead to sufficient cave development hospitable for early hominin living sites by MIS 9, as found at Gunung Sewu (Java) Liang Bua (Flores) and Cagayan (Luzon). These last sites yield most evidence for the later Lower Paleolithic sequence, except for local catastrophe-related open-air sites, such as Ngandong.

Following a diversifying run of at least 1.5 Ma, Sunda’s Homo erectus-derived populations disappeared during the Late Pleistocene. The arrival of Homo sapiens was apparently not a factor. The extinctions may reflect insular endemism and local volcanic catastrophes during MIS 5-2.

This long-term project was funded by the L.S.B Leakey Foundation (4 grants), the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2 grants) and the National Science Foundation (2 grants).

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