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Ancient Australian 'Superhighways' Suggested by Massive Supercomputing Study


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Mapping the "superhighways."

A computer simulation identified likely superhighways used by the earliest migrants into Australia some 65,000 years ago.

Credit: Megan Hotchkiss Davidson/Sandia National Laboratories

A multi-institutional team of researchers used supercomputers to plot the most likely migration routes of ancient humans across Australia.

The team built the first detailed topographic map of the ancient Sahul landmass from satellite, aerial, and undersea mapping data, then calculated the optimal walking routes across this landscape via least-cost path analysis.

Devin White at the U.S. Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratories said a supercomputer operated by the U.S. government ran the simulations over weeks, which yielded a network of "optimal superhighways" featuring the most appealing combinations of easy walking, water, and landmarks.

The University of Montana, Missoula's Kyle Bocinsky said, "This is a really compelling illustration of the power of using these [simulation] techniques at a huge, continental scale to understand how people navigate landscapes. It's impressive, extreme computing."

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