Sahul (/səˈhl/), also called Sahul-land, Meganesia, Papualand and Greater Australia, was a paleocontinent that encompassed the modern-day landmasses of mainland Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and the Aru Islands.[1][2][3][4][5]

Map of Sahul with Sunda

Sahul was in the south-western Pacific Ocean, located appropriately north to south between the Equator and the 44th parallel south and west to east between the 112th and the 152nd meridians east.[1] Sahul was separated from Sunda to its west by the Wallacean Archipelago.[1][6] At its largest, when ocean levels were at their lowest, it was approximately 10,600,000 square kilometres (4,100,000 sq mi) in size.[note 1][1]

After the last Ice Age global temperatures increased and sea levels gradually rose, flooding the land bridge and separating mainland Australia from New Guinea and Tasmania.[7] New Guinea was separated from the Australian mainland approximately 8,000 years ago, and Tasmania approximately 6,000 years ago.[7]

Sahul hosted a large variety of unique fauna that evolved independently from the rest of the world.[8] Most notably nearly all mammals on Sahul were marsupials including a range of browsers, burrowers, scavengers and predators; bats and rodents represented the only placental mammals.[8]

It is estimated humans first colonised Sahul between 45,000 and 60,000 years ago, making the ocean crossing from Sunda through Wallacea.[9] From Sahul humans spread throughout Oceania.[2]

The name Sahul is used by archeologists, while the name Meganesia tends to be used by zoogeographers.[3] The name Greater Australia has been used, but it has been criticised as "cartographic imperialism" because it places greater emphasis upon what is now Australia at the expense of New Guinea.[5]

See also

  • Arafura Sea  Marginal sea between Australia and Indonesian New Guinea
  • List of paleocontinents


  1. The present day area of Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania is approximately 8,500,000 square kilometres (3,300,000 sq mi).[1]




  • Ballard, Chris (1993). "Stimulating minds to fantasy? A critical etymology for Sahul". In Smith, M. A.; Spriggs, M.; Fankhouser, B. (eds.). Sahul in review: Pleistocene archaeology in Australia, New Guinea and island Melanesia (PDF). Canberra: Australian National University. pp. 17–23. ISBN 0-7315-1540-4.
  • Groves, Colin P. (1996). "Hovering on the brink: nearly but not quite getting to Australia". In Rousham, Emily; Freedman, Leonard (eds.). Perspectives in human biology: volume 2 humans in the Australasian region. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co, Pte Ltd. pp. 83–87. ISBN 981-02-3023-0. ISSN 1038-5762.
  • O’Connell, James F.; Allen, Jim; Hawkes, Kristen (2010). "Pleistocene Sahul and the origins of seafaring". In Anderson, Athol; Barrett, James H.; Boyle, Katherine V. (eds.). The global origins and development of seafaring. Cambridge: MacDonald Institute for Archeological Research. pp. 57–68. ISBN 978-1-902937-52-6.
  • O'Connor, Sue; Hiscock, Peter (2018). "The people of Sahul and near Oceania". In Cochrane, Ethan E.; Hunt, Terry L. (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Prehistoric Oceania. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 26–45. ISBN 978-0-19-992507-0.
  • Oliver, Douglas L. (1961). The Pacific Islands. New York: The American Museum of Natural History.
  • White, J. Peter; O'Connell, James F. (1982). A prehistory of Australia, New Guinea and Sahul. Sydney: Academic Press Australia. ISBN 0-12-746750-5.
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