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Early farming in Island Southeast Asia: an alternative hypothesis

  • Tim Denham (a1)

Several recent articles in Antiqui (Barker et al. 201 la; Hung et al. 2011; Spriggs 2011), discuss the validity of, and revise, portrayals of an Austronesian farming-language dispersal across Island Southeast Asia (ISEA) during the mid-Holocene (approximately 4000-3000 years ago) . In conventional portrayals of the Austronesian dispersal hypothesis (e.g. Bellwood 1984/85, 1997, 2002, 2005; Diamond 2001; Diamond & Bellwood 2003) , and its Neolithic variant (e.g. Spriggs 2003, 2007), farmer-voyagers migrated out of Taiwan approximately 4500-4000 cal BP to colonise ISEA from 4000 cal BP (Bellwood 2002) and the Mariana Islands and Palau by c. 3500-3400 cal BP (Hung et al. 201 1). The descendants of these voyagers subsequently established the Lapita Cultural Complex in the Bismarck Archipelago by c. 3470-3250 cal BP (Kirch 1997; Spriggs 1997) and became the foundational cultures across most of the Pacific from c. 3250-3100 cal BP (Kirch 2000; Addison & Matisoo-Smith 2010; dates for Lapita in Denham et al. 2012). A major problem with this historical metanarrative is the absence of substantial archaeological evidence for the contemporaneous spread of farming from Taiwan (Bulbeck 2008; Donohue & Denham 2010; Denham 2011 ).

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