This blog provides a forum for presenting and discussing the latest findings relating to the ancient Indian Ocean, from archaeology, molecular genetics, historical linguistics and other disciplines. It takes a long-term view of the Indian Ocean region, exploring the processes that shaped its cultures, societies and environments from the Pleistocene to the historical period.

We welcome your ideas, inputs and views. Please provide news of relevent publications, conferences, meetings, and other events.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sealinks at Buckingham Palace Reception

Dr Nicole Boivin, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at Jesus College, has attended a reception given by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in honour of those involved in "Exploration and Adventure".

Read More here
Read More here

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Dimensions of the Indian Ocean World Past (Conference)

Conference announcement (h/t Paul Lane):

The Western Australian Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay, Fremantle, 12-14 November 2012

This conference provides a forum for a rare interdisciplinary discussion between archaeologists, historians, ethnographers and geographers about the materials, problems and opportunities for interdisciplinary work on the Indian Ocean World (IOW) from the 9TH—19TH centuries. Stretching from the coast of East Africa to the China Seas, the IOW had by the 13th century developed what economic historians have called the world's 'First Global Economy', shaped by the distinct winds of the monsoons- a sophisticated durable system of long distance exchange of commodities, ideas, technology and people. Calling upon Archeology, History, Geography, and Ethnography, this conference will explore aspects of the growth and importance of the IOW trade between the 9th-19th centuries, as well as the interactions between the environment, commerce, and people. There is a compelling need to understand how people and communities in the IOW past responded to climatic and other environmental changes in a geopolitical area with a wide variety of trade and cultural relationships that included a broad arc stretching from the East African coast, through the Gulf States and South Asia, to East and Southeast Asia.

The papers and interdisciplinary discussions will focus upon three main research thrusts: archeological, economic and environmental. Participants will explore the emergence of aspects of the IOW economy from archeological and historical records. Historians, geographers and ethnographers will examine and measure fluctuations and impacts in human-environmental interaction over time. Together, participants will also assess the impacts of certain imperatives of the cultures of consumption of the first global economy as commodities were sold and traded in a variety of social and cultural settings within the IOW.

This ARC/MCRI conference will examine aspects of the socially regulated processes of circulation, human–environment interactions, and responses to environmental change, in the First Global Economy. As a joint Murdoch-McGill initiative, the conference represents a crucial Australian step of the global project 'The Indian Ocean World: the Making of the First Global Economy in the Context of Human-Environment Interaction' led by Professor Gwyn Campbell, McGill University.


Saturday, 11 June 2011

Dispersals across Arabia

Our team identified a Middle Palaeolithic archaeological site deep inside the Arabian peninsula (click here). The archaeological site, called Jebel Qattar, is located along the Jubbah palaeo-lakeshores. Here, we have an archaeological site dating to 75,000 years ago, corresponding with a wet phase in the Arabian Desert. This new archaeological information fits nicely with a model of human migrations in the interior of Arabia, utilizing lakes and rivers during humid periods. See: Trailblazers across Arabia.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Revolutionizing the Age of the Indian Acheulean

The oldest Acheulean artefacts outside of Africa have now been dated to 1.5 million years ago by Shanti Pappu and her team of French and Indian colleagues, as reported in Science. This is rather spectacular and welcome news for our understanding of Out of Africa dispersals. If true, the new evidence from the site of Attirampakkam means that early human populations from Africa were able to reach the subcontinent not long after handaxe and cleaver technology was invented in Africa. These early hominins would have had to pass through some formidable landscapes to reach southern India, skirting around significant geographic barriers such as mountainous terrain and sizeable river valleys. If the dating is upheld, the implication is that ancestors, such as Homo erectus, reached India at an early stage.

Almost at the same time of this publication, our team has just published an on-line article in Quaternary Research which indicates that the Indian Late Acheulean is as young as 140,000 - 120,000 years old. The Son Valley sites of northern India are now among the youngest known Acheulean sites in the world. Based on the Narmada fossil, we opine that these Late Acheulean industries were probably made by an archaic, but somewhat bigger brained ancestor, such as Homo heidelbergensis.

Current research in India therefore indicates that the Acheulean industry ranges from 1.5 million years ago to 120,000 years -- a period spanning well over 1.4 million years of hominin evolution! Systematic excavations and rigourous dating methods have finally allowed us to better understand the population history of the subcontinent. Though direct fossil associations with tools remain elusive, the current evidence does suggest that more than one ancestor made the handaxe and cleaver industries. Does this mean that there was more than one dispersal into the subcontinent, or does it mean that there was a regional speciation event? Though the Acheulean toolkits obviously served useful purposes for a period extending more than a million years, the long-term stylistic consistency of the tool industry is rather remarkable, indicating that the pace of technological innovations was unlike anything that we see in the modern world.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Humans 'left Africa much earlier'

Modern humans may have emerged from Africa up to 50,000 years earlier than previously thought, a study suggests. Researchers have uncovered stone tools in the Arabian peninsula that they say were made by modern humans about 125,000 years ago. The tools were unearthed at the site of Jebel Faya in the United Arab Emirates, a team reports in the journal Science. Read more.