Journal of World Prehistory

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 1–45 | Cite as

Assessment of the Southern Dispersal: GIS-Based Analyses of Potential Routes at Oxygen Isotopic Stage 4

  • Julie S. FieldEmail author
  • Marta Mirazón Lahr

This paper explores the geographic and environmental context of the Southern Dispersal Route, which has been proposed as a migratory route for Homo sapiens from East Africa to Australasia during oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 4 (71–59 kyr). A series of assumptions and constraints garnered from modern hunter-gatherer observations are used to build a model of coastal foragers, which is then integrated with high-resolution physiographic analyses to produce a potential dispersal route along the coastline of the Indian Ocean. Paleoenvironmental conditions that may have supplied critical resources or served as obstacles to human colonization are identified and discussed in regards to human subsistence, the speed of migration, and demographic expansion. These factors suggest that rapid dispersals along coastlines and river valleys would have occurred upon the initial expansion out of Africa, but slowed as populations expanded demographically into South Asia and the Sunda Shelf. This also suggests that archaeological signatures relating to the earliest modern Homo sapiens are more likely to be recovered in South Asia.


Out-of-Africa modern humans dispersals routes coastlines 



This paper is the first in a series of studies under the UK NERC-EFCHED project (Searching for Traces of the Southern Dispersal) that aim at estimating the likelihood of a given route of dispersal—the Southern Dispersal—given specific temporal, geographical, palaeoclimatic, and anthropometric parameters. Additional funding was provided by the Leverhulme Trust. We wish to acknowledge and thank two anonymous reviewers, and also the editor of this journal, Angela Close, for a series of discerning critiques. Collaborative input and insight was also provided by Charu Sharma, Mike Petraglia, Robert Foley, Stephen Stokes, Geoff Duller, Mark Siddall, and Chris Clarkson


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary StudiesUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom

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