Illuminating Southeast Asian Prehistory: New Archaeological and Paleoanthropological Frontiers for Luminescence Dating

By Roberts, Richard G.; Morwood, M. J. et al. | Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview

Illuminating Southeast Asian Prehistory: New Archaeological and Paleoanthropological Frontiers for Luminescence Dating


Roberts, Richard G., Morwood, M. J., Westaway, Kira E., Asian Perspectives: the Journal of Archaeology for Asia and the Pacific


ABSTRACT

Since the explorations of Alfred Russel Wallace and Eugene Dubois in the nineteenth century, Southeast Asia has been one of the world's focal points for studies of biogeography and biodiversity, human evolution and dispersal, environmental change, and the spread of culture, farming, and language. Yet despite its prominence, reliable chronologies are not available for many of the critical archaeological, evolutionary, and environmental turning points that have taken place in the region during the last 1.5 million years. In this paper, we discuss some of these chronological problems and describe how luminescence dating may help overcome them. "Luminescence dating" is a term that embraces the techniques of thermoluminescence (TL) and optical dating, which can be used to estimate the time elapsed since ubiquitous mineral grains, such as quartz and potassium feldspar, were last heated to a high temperature or were last exposed to sunlight. Luminescence methods have been successfully deployed at late Quaternary archaeological, paleoanthropological, and geological sites around the world, but not to any great extent in Southeast Asia. Here we describe the principles of TL and optical dating and some of the difficulties that are likely to arise in dating the volcanic minerals found throughout the region. We also outline several long-standing archaeological and paleoanthropological questions that are the subject of a current program of luminescence dating in Southeast Asia, and present recent dating results from Liang Bua in Indonesia and Bukit Bunuh in Malaysia. Keywords: luminescence dating, archaeology, paleoanthropology, Quaternary, Southeast Asia, Liang Bua, Bukit Bunuh.

**********

Robust chronologies for the extinction of Homo erectus, the arrival of modern humans (Homo sapiens), and the dispersal of Neolithic peoples throughout Southeast Asia and Oceania are needed to assess general models of human evolution and dispersal worldwide. At present, the lack of adequate age control has created a deadlock between proponents of the "multiregional" hypothesis of modern human evolution, who argue that modern humans arose by evolutionary changes in earlier hominid populations in many parts of the Old World, and advocates of the "out of Africa" hypothesis, who hold the view that modern humans first appeared in Africa less than 200,000 years ago and then dispersed across the world, eclipsing all earlier hominid populations (Brauer and Smith 1992; Storm 2001; Stringer 2002, 2003; Templeton 2002). Reliable ages for the critical Homo erectus and early modern human sites in Southeast Asia (Figure 1) are needed to discriminate between these two models and their variants. The recent discovery of a new species of hominin (Homo floresiensis) from late Pleistocene deposits on the island of Flores in eastern Indonesia (Brown et al. 2004; Morwood et al. 2004) further highlights the key role of Southeast Asia in the story of human evolution --a tradition begun more than a century ago by Eugene Dubois (Shipman 2001).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

From a regional perspective, the present lack of a robust chronology for the major turning points in the Southeast Asian cultural and evolutionary sequences makes it futile to speculate on whether Homo erectus, Homo sapiens, and Homo floresiensis ever came into contact; what form any contact may have taken; what impact archaic and modern humans may have had on the landscape, fauna, and flora; and what effect major environmental changes (e.g., volcanic eruptions, such as the Toba explosion about 74,000 years ago) may have exerted on the resident human populations through modifications to the climate and habitat (Ambrose 1998; Oppenheimer 2002).

The reasons for these chronological conundrums are multifarious and often complex. For example, Swisher et al. (1994) reported [sup.40]Ar/[sup.39]Ar ages of 1.6-1.8 million years for hornblende crystals collected from volcanic units thought to be directly associated with early hominid remains at Sangiran and Mojokerto in central and eastern Java. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Illuminating Southeast Asian Prehistory: New Archaeological and Paleoanthropological Frontiers for Luminescence Dating
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.