Minimum founding populations for the first peopling of Sahul



Publication Details

Bradshaw, C. J.A., Ulm, S., Williams, A. N., Bird, M. I., Roberts, R. G., Jacobs, Z., Laviano, F., Weyrich, L. S., Friedrich, T., Norman, K. & Saltre, F. (2019). Minimum founding populations for the first peopling of Sahul. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 3 1057-1063.


The timing, context and nature of the first people to enter Sahul is still poorly understood owing to a fragmented archaeological record. However, quantifying the plausible demographic context of this founding population is essential to determine how and why the initial peopling of Sahul occurred. We developed a stochastic, age-structured model using demographic rates from hunter-gatherer societies, and relative carrying capacity hindcasted with LOVECLIM's net primary productivity for northern Sahul. We projected these populations to determine the resilience and minimum sizes required to avoid extinction. A census founding population of between 1,300 and 1,550 individuals was necessary to maintain a quasi-extinction threshold of ≲0.1. This minimum founding population could have arrived at a single point in time, or through multiple voyages of ≥130 people over ~700-900 years. This result shows that substantial population amalgamation in Sunda and Wallacea in Marine Isotope Stages 3-4 provided the conditions for the successful, large-scale and probably planned peopling of Sahul.

Grant Number


Grant Number

ARC/ FL130100116

Additional Grant Number


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