When Humans Arrived in the New Guinea Highlands

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Science  01 Oct 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6000, pp. 41-42
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195448

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People now inhabit every continent on Earth, with the partial exception of Antarctica. How and when this occupation unfolded is the subject of considerable debate, in part because the process raises questions about the development of human intelligence, adaptability, and technology. On page 78 of this issue, Summerhayes et al. (1) add to the discussion with a thought-provoking report on what may be the earliest documented human occupation of Sahul, the land mass that once joined Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG). Stone tools and plant remains indicate that, at least 43,000 years ago, people were living in PNG's high Ivane Valley and exploiting plants for food, and also altering their environment.