Shell Adzes, Exotic Obsidian, and Inter-Island Voyaging in the Early and Middle and Holocene of Wallacea
The environmental extremes of the Last Glacial Maximum and the subsequent warming and sea-level rise into the Holocene had profound implications for human behavior across much of the world. In northern New Guinea, the Maluku Islands, and the Philippines, shell adzes appear during this period alongside contact between islands. In this paper we present new data from the site of Asitau Kuru, Timor-Leste, to show that the creation of shell adzes and greater inter-island connectivity also characterizes the early and middle and early Holocene in the Nusa Tenggara archipelago of southern Wallacea. We suggest that one of the functions of these shell adzes was in making dugout canoes enabling regular access to neighboring islands; the import of exotic stone materials; long-term occupation of very small islands; and, with new hook and line technology, the capture of more fish. This evidence predates the Neolithic in the region and corroborates a linguistic hypothesis that there was a pre-Austronesian interaction sphere covering much of Wallacea.