New investigations into the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene rainforest Prehistory of Sri Lanka

The timing, routes, and nature of the dispersal of our species, anatomically modern1 Homo sapiens, Out of Africa during the Late Pleistocene remains one of the most debated topics in current palaeoanthropology and archaeology. In terms of timing, there has been a long-running debate between scholars that argue that our species left Africa prior to the end of Marine Isotope Stage 5 (130-80 ka) and those that believe this only occurred c. 60 ka. Over the course of the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that H. sapiens did manage early migrations beyond Africa. Not only have new fossils from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, demonstrated that our species emerged gradually in various parts of Africa from as early as 300 ka, but fossil findings in Israel from Misliya Cave indicate that it had made it beyond the African continent by 194-177 ka. Early finds of H. sapiens fossils at Skhul (120-90 ka) and Qafzeh (100-90 ka) from the same country further confirm an earlier route. In this thesis, I seek to enrich our understanding of Late Pleistocene human adaptations in Sri Lanka, and in Asian tropical forests more generally, by undertaking new multidisciplinary excavation of Fa Hien-lena and Kitulgala Beli-lena. In doing so, I will re-date these sites using the latest radiocarbon and Optically Stimulated Luminescence methodologies available to update the chronology of rainforest occupation in this part of the world. The application of different methods, and the information they can provide, has the potential to inform wider debates regarding the adaptive flexibility of Late Pleistocene H. sapiens as it colonized a diversity of new environments and became the last hominin on Earth.



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