Publications by authors named "David McGahan"

3 Publications

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Portable art from Pleistocene Sulawesi.

Nat Hum Behav 2020 06 16;4(6):597-602. Epub 2020 Mar 16.

Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia.

The ability to produce recognizable depictions of objects from the natural world-known as figurative art-is unique to Homo sapiens and may be one of the cognitive traits that separates our species from extinct hominin relatives. Surviving examples of Pleistocene figurative art are generally confined to rock art or portable three-dimensional works (such as figurines) and images engraved into the surfaces of small mobile objects. These portable communicative technologies first appear in Europe some 40 thousand years ago (ka) with the arrival of H. sapiens. Conversely, despite H. sapiens having moved into Southeast Asia-Australasia by at least 65 ka, very little evidence for Pleistocene-aged portable art has been identified, leading to uncertainties regarding the cultural behaviour of the earliest H. sapiens in this region. Here, we report the discovery of two small stone 'plaquettes' incised with figurative imagery dating to 26-14 ka from Leang Bulu Bettue, Sulawesi. These new findings, together with the recent discovery of rock art dating to at least 40 ka in this same region, overturns the long-held belief that the first H. sapiens of Southeast Asia-Australasia did not create sophisticated art and further cements the importance of this behaviour for our species' ability to overcome environmental and social challenges.
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June 2020

A reassessment of the early archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a Late Pleistocene rock-shelter site on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

PLoS One 2018 11;13(4):e0193025. Epub 2018 Apr 11.

Centre for Archaeological Science, School of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.

This paper presents a reassessment of the archaeological record at Leang Burung 2, a key early human occupation site in the Late Pleistocene of Southeast Asia. Excavated originally by Ian Glover in 1975, this limestone rock-shelter in the Maros karsts of Sulawesi, Indonesia, has long held significance in our understanding of early human dispersals into 'Wallacea', the vast zone of oceanic islands between continental Asia and Australia. We present new stratigraphic information and dating evidence from Leang Burung 2 collected during the course of our excavations at this site in 2007 and 2011-13. Our findings suggest that the classic Late Pleistocene modern human occupation sequence identified previously at Leang Burung 2, and proposed to span around 31,000 to 19,000 conventional 14C years BP (~35-24 ka cal BP), may actually represent an amalgam of reworked archaeological materials. Sources for cultural materials of mixed ages comprise breccias from the rear wall of the rock-shelter-remnants of older, eroded deposits dated to 35-23 ka cal BP-and cultural remains of early Holocene antiquity. Below the upper levels affected by the mass loss of Late Pleistocene deposits, our deep-trench excavations uncovered evidence for an earlier hominin presence at the site. These findings include fossils of now-extinct proboscideans and other 'megafauna' in stratified context, as well as a cobble-based stone artifact technology comparable to that produced by late Middle Pleistocene hominins elsewhere on Sulawesi.
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July 2018