The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Is there evidence for Assimilation in Australasia?


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University, Department of Archaeology, Flinders University, Department of Anthropology, South Australian Museum

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The study of modern human origins in Australia has a long history. Throughout much of this history, workers interested in the origins of the Australians have often focused on scenarios that invoke multiple founding populations for the modern inhabitants of this continent. These theories have included the Trihybrid model by Birdsell and the Dihybrid model championed by Thorne, with the latter often portrayed as one of the strongest supports for the modern Multiregional hypothesis. “The mark of ancient Java” has long been thought to link populations like the Ngandong fossils to both fossil and modern Australian Aboriginals. More recently, genetic evidence has suggested that the Denisovans contributed genes to modern Australian populations, suggesting that at least some admixture did take place in Southeast Asia and Australasia.

Examination of the fossil evidence casts doubt on hypotheses of regional continuity in Australasia. Morphologies seen in the Sangiran/Ngandong fossils from Java are not found in any "robust" early Australians, and this evidence is most supportive of the replacement of these archaic Indonesian populations by later migrations of modern humans. The genetic evidence, however, may indicate some assimilation of an archaic genome in modern Australian populations. This presentation will summarize our current understanding of modern human origins in Australasia and examine a series of hypotheses that could reconcile the potentially conflicting evidence from the fossils and ancient DNA.

This research was supported by the American Philosophical Society, Texas Tech University, the University of Tennessee, and Northern Illinois University.

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