Publication Details

Szabo, K., Brumm, A. & Bellwood, P. (2007). Shell artefact production at 32,000-28,000 BP in Island Southeast Asia: Thinking across media?. Current Anthropology, 48 (5), 701-723.


The evolution of anatomical and behavioural modernity in Homo sapiens has been one of the key focus areas in both archaeology and palaeoanthropology since their inception. Traditionally, interpretations have drawn mainly on evidence from the many large and well-known sites in Europe, but archaeological research in Africa and the Levant is increasingly altering and elaborating upon our understanding of later human evolution. Despite the presence of a number of important early modern human and other hominin sites in Southeast Asia, evidence from this region has not contributed to the global picture in any significant way. Indeed, the acknowledged simplicity of lithic assemblages has led generations of scholars to assume that Southeast Asia was far from the cutting edge of behavioural evolution. Comparison of sophisticated shell tools from levels dated to 32,000-28,000 b.p. in eastern Indonesia with lithic artefacts recovered from the same levels and an assessment of rawmaterial procurement suggest that using lithic technologies as markers of behavioural complexity may be misleading in a Southeast Asian context and, indeed, may be hampering our efforts to assess behavioural complexity in global and comparative frameworks



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