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Discovering the opposite shore: How did hominins cross sea straits?

Ericson Hölzchen; Christine Hertler; Ana Mateos; Jesús Rodríguez; Jan Ole Berndt; Ingo Timm
In: PLoS ONE (PLOS), Vol. 16, No. 6, Pages 1-29, Plos, 6/2021.


Understanding hominin expansions requires the comprehension of movement processes at different scales. In many models of hominin expansion these processes are viewed as being determined by large-scale effects, such as changes in climate and vegetation spanning continents and thousands or even millions of years. However, these large-scale patterns of expansions also need to be considered as possibly resulting from the accumulation of small-scale decisions of individual hominins. Moving on a continental scale may for instance involve crossing a water barrier. We present a generalized agent-based model for simulating the crossing of a water barrier where the agents represent the hominin individuals. The model can be configured to represent a variety of movement modes across water. Here, we compare four different behavioral scenarios in conjunction with a set of water barrier configurations, in which agents move in water by either paddling, drifting, swimming or rafting. We introduce the crossing-success-rate (CSR) to quantify the performance in water crossing. Our study suggests that more focus should be directed towards the exploration of behavioral models for hominins, as directionality may be a more powerful factor for crossing a barrier than environmental opportunities alone. A prerequisite for this is to perceive the opposite shore. Furthermore, to provide a comprehensive understanding of hominin expansions, the CSR allows for the integration of results obtained from small-scale simulations into large-scale models for hominin expansion.