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Australian backed artifacts appear in the terminal Pleistocene but “proliferate” to become the dominant retouched form in the southeast of the continent only in the mid-Holocene. This change was triggered by the onset of an ENSO-dominated climatic pattern 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, and increased backed artifact production was one of a number of strategies that reduced risk during the mid-Holocene. Adoption of technologies featuring standardized kinds of artifacts was advantageous at that time, but the parallel response of the different technological systems in southern and northern Australia reveals historical contingency in the evolutionary trends.