A Tale of Two Islands: Environment and Human Subsistence Strategies in Java, Indonesia and Luzon, Philippines during the last 25,000 years

The drastic environmental and climatic changes following the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) greatly impacted human population structures and movements. In Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, landscape and environmental changes following the LGM are thought to have driven demographic changes and cultural innovations. Perhaps one of the most dramatic landscape changes during the period was the inundation of the Sunda Shelf which resulted in the modern configuration of Island Southeast Asia (ISEA). There are still comparatively few clear indications of the extent that the disappearance of such massive landmass, approximately 75% larger than what exists today, had on human communities. This project aims to contribute to the knowledge of how humans present in ISEA during this period adapted to environmental and climatic fluctuations.

The project will focus on the zooarchaeological analyses of faunal assemblages from several cave sites in Java, Indonesia and Luzon, the Philippines. Careful analyses of animal remains provide an opportunity to look at changes in the subsistence economies of prehistoric hunter-gatherer communities in these islands through time. They could also allow the description of the hunting and foraging techniques employed by these communities.

Knowledge of the types of environment encountered by the people living in these islands is important in understanding patterns of human behavior. In addition to the distribution of animal taxa through time, the project will look at other proxies to reconstruct local paleoenvironmental contexts. Dental wear (mesowear and microwear) and stable isotope (carbon and nitrogen) analyses will be conducted to detect dietary shifts in selected animal taxa. These proxies reflect dietary changes across different timescales. Stable isotopes from dental enamel reflect an animal’s diet during tooth formation (usually 1-4 years) whereas dental wear signatures reflect the animal’s diet during the last months/weeks of its life.

Integration of results of the zooarchaeological, dental wear and stable isotope analyses is expected to provide unique insights into the ways that Southeast Asian hunter gatherers adapted to environmental changes during a key period of human history.

Related Publications:

Amano N., Rivals, F. Moigne, AM., Ingicco, T., Sémah, F., Simanjuntak, T. 2016. Paleoenvironment in East Java during the Last 25,000 years as Inferred from Bovid and Cervid Dental Wear Analyses. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10: 155-165.

Amano, N., Moigne A.M., Ingicco, T., Sémah, F., Awe, R.D., Simanjuntak, T. 2016. Subsistence Strategies and Environment in Late Pleistocene- Early Holocene Eastern Java:  Evidence from Braholo Cave. Quaternary International 416:46-63.

Go to Editor View