The geoarchaeology of hominin dispersals to and from tropical Southeast Asia: A review and prognosis
Tropical Southeast Asia is a critically important region for addressing the major questions and grand challenges that concern us today regarding Late Pleistocene hominin dispersals across the Old World. Geoarchaeological science is widely employed in many regions of the world to contextualise archaeological material and provide an environmental backdrop against which to explore archaeological narratives. However, in Southeast Asia there is an apparent lag in the routine use of this Earth-Science approach despite the abundance of archaeological sites important in explicating past hominin dispersals to and from the region. In this review of the state-of-the-art of geoarchaeological research in Southeast Asia, I examine the role of the discipline in addressing the important issues in archaeology today. I identify where geoarchaeology is being used and to what effect, highlighting gaps in the geoarchaeological dataset. From a methodological point of view it is imperative that archaeologists and geoarchaeologists working in Southeast Asia (and other humid tropical regions of the world) fully appreciate how to interpret the geoarchaeological signatures associated with this climate regime so that methods and practice can be refined. A series of steps that will serve to drive forward geoarchaeological research in the region are also proposed.