via PLoS One, 02 June 2021: This new paper of pottery dates in Island Southeast Asia complicates our understanding of the spread of the Austronesians into Southeast Asia and the south Pacific, showing that people moved at all directions over a range of times.
Neolithization, or the Holocene demographic expansion of farming populations, accounts for significant changes in human and animal biology, artifacts, languages, and cultures across the earth. For Island Southeast Asia, the orthodox Out of Taiwan hypothesis proposes that Neolithic expansion originated from Taiwan with populations moving south into Island Southeast Asia, while the Western Route Migration hypothesis suggests the earliest farming populations entered from Mainland Southeast Asia in the west. These hypotheses are also linked to competing explanations of the Austronesian expansion, one of the most significant population dispersals in the ancient world that influenced human and environmental diversity from Madagascar to Easter Island and Hawai‘i to New Zealand. The fundamental archaeological test of the Out of Taiwan and Western Route Migration hypotheses is the geographic and chronological distribution of initial pottery assemblages, but these data have never been quantitatively analyzed. Using radiocarbon determinations from 20 archaeological sites, we present a Bayesian chronological analysis of initial pottery deposition in Island Southeast Asia and western Near Oceania. Both site-scale and island-scale Bayesian models were produced in Oxcal using radiocarbon determinations that are most confidently associated with selected target events. Our results indicate multi-directional Neolithic dispersal in Island Southeast Asia, with the earliest pottery contemporaneously deposited in western Borneo and the northern Philippines. This work supports emerging research that identifies separate processes of biological, linguistic, and material culture change in Island Southeast Asia.