via Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology, 08 October 2023: Paper by Brockwell et al. explores the rich archaeological and anthropological history of Hatu Saur in Timor-Leste, revealing how environmental changes and external influences, including colonial rule, have shaped human adaptation over approximately 10,500 years. The site offers insights into settlement patterns, trade, and local mythologies, including the intriguing “hairy man” origin myth that may signify the arrival of agriculture.
During the Holocene, Wallacea saw dramatic sociocultural changes during the Pre-ceramic, Neolithic, Metal-age, and Colonial periods, as well as climatic and associated environmental changes that affected the landscapes and ecologies of islands. These environmental and cultural processes appear to have influenced human socioeconomic adaptations throughout the archipelago. Here, we present new anthropological and archaeological data demonstrating the effects of these processes. Excavations at the cave site of Hatu Saur on the north coast of Timor-Leste have revealed a deep archaeological sequence that dates from ca. 10,500 years until the present. The site contains extensive assemblages of faunal remains, as well as stone artifacts, revealing settlement patterns that were influenced by sea level change and estuarine infilling after 7 ka. The sequence encompasses the beginning of the Neolithic in Timor-Leste, some 3500 years ago, and the period from ca. 700 years ago when outside influences, including Chinese and Makassar traders and Dutch and Portuguese colonization, greatly affected the indigenous culture and economy on the island of Timor, reflected in the material culture remains from Hatu Saur. The archaeological findings complement related anthropological research in the region that highlights unique local mythologies of settlement origins and their contested histories.