A new 44,000-year sequence from Asitau Kuru (Jerimalai), Timor-Leste, indicates long-term continuity in human behaviour
In this paper, we look at a situation of long-term continuity to understand the circumstances that mediate against behavioural change. Using newly excavated material from Asitau Kuru, Timor-Leste, we assess continuity in stone tool technology, as well as pigment and bead use over a span of 44,000 years. The sequence is divided into three occupation phases: a Pleistocene occupation from ~ 44,000 to 15,000 years ago, an early to middle Holocene occupation from ~ 10,000 to 5000 years ago and a Neolithic occupation from ~ 3800 years ago to the recent past. Across these three phases, there are distinct continuities in the way stone tools are made, and the use of red ochre and Oliva beads. We suggest that the unusually high relief topography of the Wallacean Archipelago ensured continuity in several parameters of potential behavioural change, including available environments, proximity to the sea and island size. Given the long-term continuity, the similarities with stone artefacts elsewhere in Wallacea and the early dates for human occupation in Wallacea from this excavation, we suggest that the stone tool technology documented here was introduced by an early dispersing population of Homo sapiens.