A critical review of radiocarbon dates clarifies the human settlement of Madagascar

Kristina Douglass, Sean Hixon, Henry T. Wright, Laurie R. Godfrey, Brooke E. Crowley, Barthélémy Manjakahery, Tanambelo Rasolondrainy, Zoë Crossland, Chantal Radimilahy

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64 Scopus citations


The timing of the human settlement of Madagascar, one of the last large landmasses to be settled by people, remains a key topic of debate in archaeology. Despite decades of research, recent estimates for initial settlement are increasingly divergent and span ca. 9000 years: the widest colonization window for any island within the reliable range of radiocarbon (14C) dating. 14C dating of archaeological sites and remains of butchered animals provide important evidence of when the island was first settled, but the reliability of these dates requires critical evaluation. Applying principles of chronometric hygiene, we present the first systematic review of Madagascar's14C chronology to clarify the island's settlement. Our findings support human presence by at least 2000 cal BP and suggest that an Early Holocene arrival is possible. The nature of such an early presence on the island, however, remains elusive due to a lack of contextual information.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105878
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Geology


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