Cultural Evolution in the Late Pleistocene and Holocene of Southeast Asia1


  • 1

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Fourth International Conference on Asian History held at the University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 5–10 August 1968. I should like to thank B. A. V. Peacock, W. G. Solheim II, H. L. Movius, Jr., and I. S. McRae for helpful comments. Final responsibility for the content of the paper is, of course, mine alone.


Cultural adaptation and change in mainland and insular southeast Asia in the late Pleistocene and early to middle Holocene are examined in this paper with the aid of several concepts borrowed from population genetics. The concepts of cultural flow, cultural homeostasis, the cultural pool, and the cultural isolate prove particularly useful in interpreting the prehistoric record in the area in the broadest possible terms. Two areal traditions, the “conservative” and the “innovative,” emerge from the analysis and are formally defined.