Symbolic behaviour and the peopling of the southern arc route to Australia

Jane Balme, Iain Davidson, Jo McDonald, Nicola Stern, Peter Veth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

91 Citations (Scopus)


It is now widely accepted that modern humans dispersed from Africa some time after 100 ka, arriving in Australia before 40 ka via a route known as the southern arc. Along this route modern humans would have encountered new and diverse environments but their dispersal into and settlement of new areas was rapid. Language and other symbolic behaviours would have contributed to the flexibility of social and economic strategies required for such rapid dispersal and colonisation. However, there is generally little material evidence in the southern arc for the existence of this symbolic behaviour, except in Australia. We believe that previous assessments of the quantities of such evidence in Australia have underestimated its abundance. The crucial point is that colonisation of the southern arc is itself evidence for the existence of complex information exchange systems, planning depth and symbolic conceptualisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-68
JournalQuaternary International
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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