When didHomo sapiens first reach Southeast Asia and Sahul? Academic Article uri icon


  • Anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens, AMH) began spreading across Eurasia from Africa and adjacent Southwest Asia about 50,000-55,000 years ago (ca 50-55 ka). Some have argued that human genetic, fossil, and archaeological data indicate one or more prior dispersals, possibly as early as 120 ka. A recently reported age estimate of 65 ka for Madjedbebe, an archaeological site in northern Sahul (Pleistocene Australia-New Guinea), if correct, offers what might be the strongest support yet presented for a pre-55-ka African AMH exodus. We review evidence for AMH arrival on an arc spanning South China through Sahul and then evaluate data from Madjedbebe. We find that an age estimate of >50 ka for this site is unlikely to be valid. While AMH may have moved far beyond Africa well before 50-55 ka, data from the region of interest offered in support of this idea are not compelling.


  • O'Connell, James F
  • Allen, Jim
  • Williams, Martin AJ
  • Williams, Alan N
  • Turney, Chris SM
  • Spooner, Nigel A
  • Kamminga, Johan
  • Brown, Graham
  • Cooper, Alan

publication date

  • 2018