I. Prehistoric Times > G. The Spread of Modern Humans in the Old World (100,000 to 12,000 Years Ago) > 3. South and Southeast Asia
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  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
 
 
3. South and Southeast Asia
 
While the Cro-Magnons and other northern groups were mastering arctic climates, other modern humans moved into tropical south and Southeast Asia, probably by at least 45,000 years ago, if not earlier. For thousands of years, forest bands exploited small game and plant foods, using increasingly smaller and more specialized tool kits. At the time, the exposed continental shelf joined offshore islands like Borneo to the Asian mainland. This Ice Age land, known to geologists as Sunda, was separated from New Guinea and Australia (Sahul) by only a narrow strait of open water.  1
Homo sapiens sapiens built rafts or canoes to cross deep water by at least 40,000 years ago, for artifacts of this age have been found in southern New Guinea. By 32,000 years ago, people were living on the islands of the Bismarck Archipelago in the southwestern Pacific, and by 28,000 years ago people had reached the Solomon Islands. Line-of-sight, island-to-island voyaging was all that was needed to colonize these landmasses. It was to be many thousands of years before the peoples of the southwestern Pacific developed the agriculture, outrigger canoes, and the navigation skills needed to reach islands much farther offshore.  2
The first human settlement of Australia came at least 35,000 years ago, perhaps somewhat earlier: the dating is controversial. Hunter-gatherer groups, the ancestors of the modern aboriginal population, were dwelling as far south as Tasmania before 31,000 years ago. At the time, Tasmania was joined to the Australian mainland by a land bridge. Late Ice Age Tasmanians were hunting wallabies in an open landscape that became dense forest at least 20,000 years ago.  3
These late Ice Age Australian populations continued to evolve without interruption into recent times, developing increasingly more elaborate cultures that are remarkable for their sophisticated art traditions, social organization, and ritual life. The highly diverse and sophisticated Australian aboriginal cultures encountered by Dutch and English explorers in the 17th and 18th centuries C.E. are the direct result of more than 30,000 years of continuous cultural evolution in an isolated, remote landmass.  4
 
 
 
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

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