Population dynamics during the Acheulean at ~0.8 Ma in East and Southeast Asia: Considering the influence of two geological cataclysms

Hao Li, Matt G. Lotter, Kathleen Kuman, Lei Lei, Wei Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing evidence that confirms the existence of the Acheulean or Acheulean-like technology at sites in Southeast and East Asia, especially for its earliest appearance at ~0.8 Ma, and two competing hypotheses have been proposed to interpret its origins. Regardless of whether this technology is due to Acheulean population movements or to independent invention, however, one clear feature of these earlier sites is the significantly low lithic densities and infrequent numbers of Large Cutting Tools (LCTs) (e.g., for sites in the Bose Basin). Various hypotheses have been proposed to account for these low artefact densities. In this paper, we consider the interplay between cataclysmic events in the environment and population dynamics during the Acheulean in the Bose Basin, which has received little attention with regard to ecology. We focus on two sudden penecontemporaneous geological events at ~0.8 Ma: the Australasian tektite fall and the oldest Toba super-eruption, both of which have been well documented in Southeast Asia and the southern part of South China and have been confirmed as causing severe environmental change (e.g., deforestation). We propose that this destruction of the original habitat created a population bottleneck effect for the toolmakers, who very likely occupied the landscape at approximately the same time as the cataclysms. This study broadens our understanding of the regional character of the Acheulean sites in Southeast and East Asia, and it provides an interesting case study that highlights the potential relationship between Acheulean population dynamics and sudden environmental change.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109927
JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • Australites
  • Environmental destruction
  • Founder effect
  • Lower-Middle Pleistocene transition
  • Population bottleneck
  • Toba super-eruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Paleontology


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