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The traditional European image of the Upper Palaeolithic – of early modern humans with blade technology, a succession of typologically distinct industries, durable evidence of abstract behaviours and economic specialisation – is not easily transposable to South and Southeast Asia. As a result of this, we have chosen to confine our discussion of the “Upper Palaeolithic” of South and Southeast Asia to within chronological rather than technological markers. Our coverage begins c. 74,000 years ago (or 74 kbp) with the most recent eruption of the Toba supervolcano (the Youngest Toba Tephra [YTT] event) in Sumatra (Oppenheimer 2001). The fallout record from this eruption is well documented in both regions to be examined and a matter of considerable importance for its impact on early human populations in these areas. We conclude our discussion at the recently recognised base of the Holocene, c. 11,700 calibrated (cal) years ago (Blockley et al. 2006). Geographically, we are concerned with the archaeological records of those countries bordering the northern shores of the Indian Ocean in the west (particularly Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka) and countries that surround and are located in the South China Sea and Wallacean seas to the east (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam). All sites and dates are listed in Table 1.23.1; sites are presented in Map 1.23.1. Dividing the data into oceanic units like this not only presents a more regionally focused (rather than nationally defined) study, it allows us to assess the evidence for the initial colonisation of these regions by modern humans, which is thought to have occurred during this time and which is widely believed to have followed a coastal pathway.
This book examines the first human colonization of Asia and particularly the tropical environments of Southeast Asia during the Upper Pleistocene. In studying the unique character of the Asian archaeological record, it reassesses long-accepted propositions about the development of human 'modernity.' Ryan J. Rabett reveals an evolutionary relationship between colonization, the challenges encountered during this process – especially in relation to climatic and environmental change – and the forms of behaviour that emerged. This book argues that human modernity is not something achieved in the remote past in one part of the world, but rather is a diverse, flexible, responsive and ongoing process of adaptation.