The Goa Topogaro Complex: Human Migration and Mortuary Practice in Sulawesi During the Late Pleistocene and Holocene

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The region of Wallacea has become a hotspot of archaeological research due to significant new discoveries that are changing our understanding and theories about early human history. Anatomically modern humans (AMH) began to migrate and expand to Wallacea and Sahul in Oceania over 45,000 years ago, making this one of the earliest regions with a presence of AMH outside of Africa. Additionally, Sulawesi, the largest island in Wallacea, has yielded the oldest dates for rock paintings worldwide at around 44,000 years ago, predating rock art discovered in Europe. While U-series dating has been used to determine the early rock art, no 14C dates over 40,000 years ago had been reported from Sulawesi, so far. However, in our latest excavation at Goa Topogaro in Central Sulawesi, we obtained 14C dates that support the presence and spread of AMH in Sulawesi by at least 40,000 years ago, if not earlier. The Topogaro cave complex also yielded significant amounts of archaeological remains from various periods during the Late Pleistocene and Holocene, as well as from historical times. Here, we present the major findings of our archaeological research in Goa Topogaro on the eastern coast of Sulawesi and discuss the evidence and timeline for the migration of AMH into Sulawesi Island and their adaptation to the insular environments of Wallacea during the late Pleistocene and Holocene.