Early Dispersal of Man on Islands of the Indonesian Archipelago--Facts and Controls
Sea barriers are an effective means of limiting the dispersal of terrestrial vertebrates. Fossil evidence shows, however, that land mammals have colonized islands. The island faunas are impoverished, and from the faunal composition it can be learned that only large mammals with good swimming and/or floating capacities could settle on these islands. Such mammals include elephants, deer, and hippos. In some cases paleoecological conditions on islands have led to the development of faunas with dwarf species.<br>It is generally accepted that man was established on islands in the Neolithic. There is, however, an increasing amount of evidence that in some cases, migration of hominids across sea barriers initially occurred much earlier. The presence of flowery Palaeolithic industry on Sardinia (Italy) points to a Middle Pleistocene colonization of this island. Other islands in the Mediterranean, like Crete and Cyprus, were colonized only in the Neolithic. This proves that the distance of the island to the coast of the mainland was not the only limiting factor on colonization of islands by early Man. Other factors such as food supply also play a role. On Sardinia a hare-like mammal <i>Prolagus</i> existed. This animal had a high reproduction rate and could have served as a continuous food supply for a hunter-gatherer population.<br>On the islands of S.E. Asia we find giant rats. These mammals could have served as a food supply for Palaeolithic Man. On Flores artifacts are found in association with a Middle Pleistocene fauna. Palaeontological evidence shows a faunal turnover in the Middle Pleistocene on both Sardinia (Italy) and Flores (Indonesia).