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Aquatic resources exploitation and adaptation of Anatomically Modern Human in Island Southeast Asia: palaeoenvironmental and cultural implications


Author: Boulanger, Clara
Under the direction of: Susan O’Connor, Anne-Marie Semahet and Thomas Ingicco
National Museum of Natural History, Paris
English Language English text

Keywords: History, Southeast Asia, Southeast Asia island, Homo sapiens, Ichtyoarchaeology, Coastal adaptation, Fishing techniques, Modern behavior, Prehistoric fishing, Southeast Asian civilization, Man - environmental effects, Marine biodiversity.


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Island Southeast Asia is one the worldwide marine biodiversity hotspots. Therefore, marine environments with their dense concentrations of fauna, rich in fatty acid nutrients, are thought to have been important to Anatomically Modern Human subsistence and leading to coastal highway hypotheses for human dispersals and settlements in the Wallacean (eastern Indonesia and Timor-Leste), and Philippines archipelagos, where our study sites, Bubog I, Bubog II, Bilat Cave, Here Sorot Entapa, Asitau Kuru, Matja Kuru 2, and Laili, are situated. This study provides new data and discussion on halieutic adaptation of AMH, allowing new large-scale comparisons on a north-south gradient between archaeological sites, and this combining archaeological and ethnographical data with advanced ichtyological taxonomic analyses (using an expanded set of skeletal elements), Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry (ZooMS) and stable isotope analysis of modern specimens and fish remains recovered from archaeological sites in these regions. Thanks to a review of the ecological specificities of each identified taxon, we estimate that humans mostly exploited near-shore environments, and that inter-site differences are directly related to local environmental disparities, and environmental changes due to climate change and sea level variations. We determine that the exploitation of local specific environments required the development of adapted fishing techniques. We come up with the hypothesis of a coastal hyper-specialization of these human groups, confirming the theory of the Homo sapiens ‘generalist specialist niche’. Furthermore, we highlighted the social role of fishing among these early islanders, with the preparation and consumption of toxic fish in the Philippines by 32,000 years ago, clearly demonstrating the coexistence of highly complex and sophisticated modernity patterns related to marine and coastal adaptation and the development of highly cognitive multistage processes representing a major step in human evolution of both cognitive and subsistence skills.