Physiography, foraging mobility, and the first peopling of Sahul

Tristan Salles, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Ian Moffat, Laurent Husson, Manon Lorcery

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The route and speed of migration into Sahul by Homo sapiens remain a major research question in archaeology. Here, we introduce an approach which models the impact of the physical environment on human mobility by combining time-evolving landscapes with Lévy walk foraging patterns, this latter accounting for a combination of short-distance steps and occasional longer moves that hunter-gatherers likely utilised for efficient exploration of new environments. Our results suggest a wave of dispersal radiating across Sahul following riverine corridors and coastlines. Estimated migration speeds, based on archaeological sites and predicted travelled distances, fall within previously reported range from Sahul and other regions. From our mechanistic movement simulations, we then analyse the likelihood of archaeological sites and highlight areas in Australia that hold archaeological potential. Our approach complements existing methods and provides interesting perspectives on the Pleistocene archaeology of Sahul that could be applied to other regions around the world.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3430
Number of pages14
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2024


  • Archaeology
  • Geomorphology
  • Hydrology


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