Investigating the palaeoenvironmental context of Late Pleistocene human dispersals into Southeast Asia: a review of stable isotope applications

Meghan S. McAllister, Mike W. Morley, Jonathan J. Tyler, Francesca A. McInerney, Alison J. Blyth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract

We review palaeoenvironmental applications of stable isotope analysis to Late Pleistocene archaeological sites across Southeast Asia (SEA), a region critical to understanding the evolution of Homo sapiens and other co-existing Late Pleistocene (124–11.7 ka) hominins. Stable isotope techniques applied to archaeological deposits offer the potential to develop robust palaeoenvironmental reconstructions, to contextualise the occupational and non-occupational history of a site. By evaluating the published research in this field, we show that sediments, guano, tooth enamel, speleothem and biomolecular material such as leaf waxes have great potential to provide site-specific palaeoenvironmental records and local and catchment-scale landscape context to hominin dispersal in the region. However, stable isotope techniques used in these contexts are in their infancy in SEA, and the diagenetic controls associated with hot and humid environments that typify the region are not yet fully understood. Additionally, availability of sources of stable isotopes varies between sites. Nonetheless, even the limited research currently available shows that stable isotope analyses can aid in developing a better understanding of the role of the environment on the nature and timing of dispersals of our species eastwards into SEA and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Article number86
Number of pages27
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Volume14
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Keywords

  • Hominins
  • Late Pleistocene
  • Palaeoenvironments
  • Southeast Asia
  • Stable isotopes

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