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Deep Histories of Oceania

Oceania (defined here as Australia, eastern Indonesia, New Guinea and the Pacific Islands), presents a unique setting for trans-disciplinary enquiry into the processes of socio-cultural evolution and diversification, and the influence of different environmental settings on these processes. Continuity in settlement by the Indigenous populations of Sahul over at least 65,000 years, and the relative recency of sustained contact with other global transfers, has produced a diversity of cultures and languages that is unrivalled in the world today, with more than 300 languages in Australia and over 1000 languages in New Guinea.

The task of simply mapping this diversity has consumed regional scholarship over the past 60 years, but we are now in a position to retrain our focus, and that of future generations of graduate students and junior scholars, on questions that seek to account for the genesis of this diversity, from the deep past through to the present day.

The project’s scope is to define methodologies and concepts that open the pathway for renewed and interdisciplinary analyses of deep-historical processes. Taking the most recent results of linguistics, archaeology and genetics into consideration, it aims at identifying the conditions and determinants of sociocultural diversification in the Sahul region (and possibly beyond).

By scaling up the collaboration between ANU’s new Evolution of Cultural Diversity Initiative and the French research network recently convened at the Institute Pasteur, the project aims at identifying the conditions and determinants of sociocultural diversification in the Sahul region. Conceptualised as a long-term collaboration, the goal is to proceed through several steps, including the constitution of an international interdisciplinary network and aiming at submitting large-scale projects to several external funding agencies.

to learn more about this project, contact Christopher Ballard

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