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Ref ID: 32943
Ref Type: Journal Article
Authors: Allen, Harry
Title: Stegodonts and the dating of stone stool assemblages in island Southeast Asia
Date: 1991
Source: Asian Perspectives (1991)
Abstract: Introduction: Knowledge of Southeast Asian prehistory until recently was organized into a system of stages rigidly defined in terms of artifact technology, human type, and geological epoch. The fit between human types, artifacts, and geological ages was thought to be so close that a find of any diagnostic artifact type or fossil was sufficient to automatically decide the chronological age and technological period as well (see Table 1). The results of archaeological surveys by Bartstra (1978a, 1978b, 1982) and Bartstra et al. (1976, 1988) have shaken belief in the association of <i>Homo erectus</i> with Pacitanian-like large-core tool industries. Similarly the appropriateness of the terms <i>Mesolithic</i> and <i>Palaeolithic</i> for Southeast Asia has been questioned (cf. Hutterer 1977). Despite these new results, however, the older interpretive framework of a close connection between geological age, human type, and technological stage has simply been replaced by a revised version (Table 2). Foley (1987) has argued that co variation between hominid fossil morphology and artifact variability is an essential starting point for understanding the evolution of human behavior. Without denying the eventual demonstration of such a covariation, it must be stated that premature conclusions along these lines have proved damaging for Southeast Asian archaeology. In any case, in Southeast Asia conclusions about relationships between technology and hominid type are bedeviled by a lack of consensus about the taxonomic status of certain of the fossils, in particular the Ngandong crania. The taxonomic relationships of the Asian and Australian hominid fossils are currently under debate. There is consensus that the Sangiran fossils (Sangiran 2, 3, 10, 12,17, and 38), which date to the Middle Pleistocene (400-800 ka), are classic Pithecanthropus <i>Homo erectus</i> (Semah et al. 1990: 63). On the other hand, the Upper Pleistocene Niah, Wajak, Mungo, and Kow Swamp hominids are accepted as fully <i>Homo sapiens</i> (Wolpoffet al. 1984:436-446). The contested ground concerns the nature of the changeover from <i>H. erectus</i> to <i>H.sapiens</i>, whether replacement or regional continuity (Stringer 1990
W olpotf et al. 1984). The Ngandong fossils are variously regarded as an evolved, but terminal, phase of <i>H. erectus</i> and called <i>H. e. solensis</i> (Bartstra and Basoeki 1989: 241
Semah et al. 1990: 67), or else as an ancestor to some of the Pleistocene Australians (Wolpoff et al. 1984:446-447). The uncertainty as to whether these fossils belong to <i>H. erectus</i> or <i>H. sapiens</i>, or somewhere in between, will be avoided here by using the term <i>Ngandong fossils</i> to describe them. Whatever the merits of the claims for the Northern Hemisphere, the dating and understanding of the Southeast Asian hominid fossils and stone tool assemblages must be considerably advanced before claims of covariation between them can be pursued. The purpose of this paper is to clarify some of the dating and technological issues surrounding the stone tool assemblages of Southeast Asia. To make headway with these questions it is necessary, now and in the immediate future, to proceedindependently of decisions about the taxonomic status of the hominid fossils and any possible covariance between hominid type and technological stages. Of particular interest to the question of technology and dating is the claimed association of Middle Pleistocene <i>Stegodon</i> fossils with stone tools east of Huxley's Line. The association of stone tools with Stegodont faunas in Island Southeast Asia has been claimed for the Philippines (Fox 1978: 69-79), Sulawesi (van Heekeren 1958: 77-79), and the islands of Eastern Nusatenggara, Flores, and Timor (Glover and Glover 1970:189
Maringer and Verhoeven 1975:104). The association of the Stegodonts with Pacitanian-like flake and pebble tools on these islands has been used as evidence that <i>Homo erectus</i> crossed the sea barriers of Wallacea during the Middle Pleistocene. Van Heekeren (1972: 71-72) concluded that "if one thing has become clear it is that there is no Wallace Line ...• either at present or in the past .... Early Man .... and even Proboscideans crossed the so-called Wallace Line in one way or another. " In noting the presence of Pac it ani an-like assemblages in gravel deposits on Flores and Timor, Mulvaney (1970: 186) stressed their significance for Australian archaeology: "If it is identified as Patjitanian, it lies across the Wallace Line from its type-site. This would show that its makers crossed deep water. ... yet, if <i>H. erectus</i> possessed any watercraft at all, he possessed the potential to reach Australia."
Date Created: 12/28/2002
Volume: 30
Number: 2
Page Start: 243
Page End: 265