A Shark-Tooth Ornament from Pleistocene Sahul

By Leavesley, Matthew G. | Antiquity, June 2007 | Go to article overview

A Shark-Tooth Ornament from Pleistocene Sahul


Leavesley, Matthew G., Antiquity


Introduction

The origin of anatomical 'modern' humans has been vigorously pursued since the first non-modern skulls were discovered in the late nineteenth century (Lahr & Foley 1998). More recently the debate to discover whether 'modern' behaviour began concurrently with anatomical modernity has intensified. While anatomy is determined by analysis of cranial morphology and the precise dating of fossils, behaviour is much harder to quantify in the archaeological record. Symbolism is a rare characteristic that is universally accepted as a marker of modernity (d'Errico et al. 2005: 4). Language is considered the clearest evidence of symbolic behaviour, but as it leaves no direct material manifestation, the use of symbolic systems must be inferred from objects (Hovers et al. 2003: 491). Personal ornaments, art and burials are generally considered unquestioned expressions of symbolism (Henshilwood et al. 2004: 404; d'Errico et al. 2005). With some notable exceptions, such as the ochre-covered Mungo III burial, most evidence for symbolism comes from Europe and is <50 000 years old (d'Errico et al. 2005: 4). However, the recent discovery of shall beads from Skhul at between 135 000 bp and 100 000 bp (Vanhaeren et al. 2006) and Blombos Cave in South Africa, dated to c. 75 000 bp, has re-ignited interest in body ornaments in the early archaeological record and their implications (Henshilwood et al. 2004: 404).

Various models have been proposed for the appearance of modern behaviour and are described in detail elsewhere (Stringer 2002: 563-64; d'Errico et al. 2005: 4). However, the dominant paradigm sees the development of anatomically modern humans by 160 000 bp followed by modern behaviour sometime later, but prior to the dispersal out of Africa (d'Errico et al. 2005: 4). Uncertainties about Australasia have led to reluctance to propose truly global models (Stringer 2002: 564). However, on this basis we might expect to see evidence of symbolism concurrent with human dispersal across Eurasia and Australasia. Up to now, such evidence has been relatively thin on the ground.

At the height of successive glacial maxima, New Guinea, Australia and some of their offshore islands formed a single land-mass known as Sahul. But at no time during the Pleistocene was New Guinea attached to Southeast Asia, being separated by the biogeographic boundary known as the Wallace Line. Nor was New Ireland attached to New Guinea and is therefore considered an off-shore island to Sahul (Kirch 2000: 66). While Homo erectus is known throughout Eurasia from Africa to China and Java (Lahr & Foley 1998), it is conventionally considered that Sahul was colonised by Anatomical Modern Humans sometime between 60 000 and 40 000 years ago (O'Connor & Chappell 2003; cf. O'Connell & Allen 2004). Crossing the Wallace Line necessitated a variety of organisational requirements. These include the capacity to cross the sea, traverse the continent at a relatively rapid rate and to adapt to environments as diverse as the tropical forests of New Guinea or tundra like the high latitudes of Tasmania (Kirch 2000: 67). The colonisation of the Bismarck Archipelago soon after that of Sahul leaves little doubt that the first people were comfortable on and around the sea as there is extensive use of coastal resources (Kirch 2000: 69). Elsewhere it has been argued that the use of boats to cross the sea barrier to Sahul is evidence of language; the use of language is seen as evidence for the use of a symbol system which in turn is indicative of modern human behaviour (Davidson & Noble 1992).

Buang Merabak cave site

The perforated shark tooth presented here is from a Late-Pleistocene occupation in New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (Figure 1), and it was excavated from a stratigraphic unit dating between c. 39 500 bp and c. 28 000 bp in Buang Merabak cave in central New Ireland. The archaeological potential of the Buang Merabak cave site was first identified by Clay (1974). …

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
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • 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

A Shark-Tooth Ornament from Pleistocene Sahul
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?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    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

    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.