The ACROSS project – Australasian Colonisation Research: Origins of Seafaring to Sahul is funded by Dr Farr’s EU grant from the H2020 Research and Innovation programme for €1.135m over five years (02/18- 02/22).

One of the most exciting and enduring research questions within Archaeology is that of the peopling of the planet and the movement of Anatomically Modern Humans (AMH) Out of Africa. The colonization of Sahul (modern day Australasia) by at least 65,000 years ago, represents some of the earliest evidence of modern human colonization outside Africa, yet, even at the greatest sea-level lowstand, this migration would have involved seafaring. It is the maritime nature of this dispersal that makes it so important to questions of technological, cognitive and social human development.

These issues have traditionally been the preserve of archaeologists, but the ACROSS project takes a multidisciplinary approach that embraces marine geoarchaeology, oceanography, and archaeogenetics, to examine the When, Where, Who and How of the earliest ocean crossings in world history.

Aims and objectives:

  • Resolve questions of the nature and timing of AMH colonization of Sahul and its implication for global colonization by modern humans
  • Resolve questions of routing and likely duration of voyages to question factors of origins, intentionality and risk
  • Integration of onshore and offshore data and unique combination of oceanography, geoscience, archaeology and archaeogenetic data.


Project team members:

 PI Helen Farr

 Justin Dix

Maddy Fowler

Francesca Gandini

Ivan Haigh

Kiki Kuijjer

Bob Marsh

Robert Mitchell

Stephen Oppenheimer

Martin Richards

Pedro Soares

Peter Veth


Figure 1. The Sunda basin and Sahul during the Last Glacial Maximum. During lowstands, vast tracks of continental shelf were dry. Even at the lowest of sea-level stands however, crossing from Sunda (now Island South East Asia) to Sahul (Australasia) would have involved boats or rafts.



Figure 2. Dix et al. 2017 Karmt and Petrel offshore 3D seismic Australian Geoscience Data, with time slices to show examples of buried features, offshore islands (top) and palaeoriver channels. Understanding the now submerged palaeolandscape and location and nature of the coast is important for our understanding of colonization.


Figure 3. Kuijjer et al. 2018. Drift modelling showing forward trajectories of particles released in July 1990, at -75 m. (GEBCO_2014 30 arc-second global grid of elevations, version 20150318, As well as understanding the nature of the land, we also need to understand the nature of the water. Palaeohydrodynamic modelling can help us reconstruct the tides and currents that seafarers would encounter.


Read more about the ACROSS project in ReAction magazine:

or, follow us on twitter:   #ACROSS    @RHelenFarr

 This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 759677