When did Homo sapiens first reach Southeast Asia and Sahul?

James F. O’Connell, Jim Allen, Martin A.J. Williams, Alan N. Williams, Chris S.M. Turney, Nigel A. Spooner, Johan Kamminga, Graham Brown, Alan Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens, AMH) began spreading across Eurasia from Africa and adjacent Southwest Asia about 50,000–55,000 years ago (ca. 50–55 ka). Some have argued that human genetic, fossil, and archaeological data indicate one or more prior dispersals, possibly as early as 120 ka. A recently reported age estimate of 65 ka for Madjedbebe, an archaeological site in northern Sahul (Pleistocene Australia–New Guinea), if correct, offers what might be the strongest support yet presented for a pre–55-ka African AMH exodus. We review evidence for AMH arrival on an arc spanning South China through Sahul and then evaluate data from Madjedbebe. We find that an age estimate of >50 ka for this site is unlikely to be valid. While AMH may have moved far beyond Africa well before 50–55 ka, data from the region of interest offered in support of this idea are not compelling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8482-8490
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2018


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