The Niah Caves, the ‘Human Revolution’, and foraging/farming transitions in Island Southeast Asia
In the first chapter of this book we set out the three principal research questions about the prehistory of Island Southeast Asia that provided the intellectual framework for the Niah Caves Project as it was formulated in the late 1990s: when did Homo sapiens first come to the region? how did our species adapt to living in the tropical environments that they encountered here? and how did farming begin in the region? As the intervening chapters have described, the new fieldwork by the Niah Caves Project, and our studies of the materials from these excavations and from the excavations by Tom and Barbara Harrisson in the 1950s and 1960s, have provided rich data with which to address these questions. At the same time, other questions also emerged as important as part of the process of organic growth that characterizes many complex archaeological projects: in part as new people joined the team bringing new interests and questions; in part as the fieldwork and archive studies threw up unexpected discoveries; in part as the wider research framework in which the project was situated developed. The purpose of this chapter is to summarize our principal findings relating both to our original questions and to those that developed during the course of the project, and to reflect on their wider ramifications for the long-term history of people and rainforest in Island Southeast Asia (Fig. 9.1).