By Land, By Sea, By Air: Prehistoric Migration Issues

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Author’s Note: The scenarios within are those of a timeframe from roughly 13,000 to 200,000 years before the present, and thus way before the era of agricultural settlements. We’re dealing with our nomadic hunter-gatherer ancestors here. Key dates are: African origin of modern humans, Homo sapiens, at about 200,000 years ago; an Out-of-Africa migration started roughly 70,000 years ago; our global colonization (except for Antarctica and Oceania) was completed by 13,000 years ago.

When it comes to humans, here defined as Homo something or other, not necessarily just Homo sapiens, colonizing the world from Ground Zero, that’s Africa, well several problems arise.

Humans (as in Homo sapiens) originated in Africa and some ultimately did, slowly, ever so slowly, migrate Out-of-Africa (not that they actually were aware of this), eventually spreading out and colonizing the world (apart from Antarctica and Oceania east of Australia and west of South America) by at least 13,000 years ago. Exactly how is not fully understood, least of all by me. The central, but not exclusive, issue I have is with respect to our ways and means of trading in being exclusively nomadic land-lubbers for acquiring sophisticated maritime abilities as well; abilities required if our global colonization scenario is to be believed.

Problem One: Boats Required but No Show-Boats Found

When it comes to human migrations, there are certain lands that have been colonized by both Homo sapiens and Homo erectus that involved crossing reasonably vast expanses of ocean – vast at least for those cultures that existed over 60,000 years ago, when, for example, Australia was colonized by what’s today known as the Australian Aborigine. Even earlier, Homo erectus island-hopped the numerous Indonesian islands as attested to by fossil evidence. In both cases, these ancient cultures had to have acquired rather extensive boat-making, sailing and navigation skills that would allow a large enough population to cross over the ocean waters, since even during Ice Age conditions, these Indonesian islands, and Australia, were still isolated by oceans.

Sailing the oceans blue: that’s a pretty big ask for primitive humans all those tens upon tens of thousands of years ago. But, there’s another way of crossing the ocean blue – we do it all the time today. We don’t sail, we fly. Perhaps our ancient ancestors were flown to Australia and the Indonesian isles! Since aerial technology is even more outlandish than maritime technology, well, perhaps the aerial technology belonged to advanced beings – ancient aliens or ancient astronauts. One other observation in favour – there are fossil finds of this or that hominid species at A, B & C. Alas, geographical points A, B, & C are separated by thousands upon thousands of miles. No fossils are found at any points in-between A & B, or B & C. An obvious explanation, they didn’t migrate between A & B and B & C at several tens of kilometres per generation; they were flown from A to B to C, thus explaining the lack of fossils in-between – but more about that shortly.

Sooner or later in your nomadic hunter-gatherer wanderings you’re going to intersect the seashore! Rivers and streams you can wade across or swim across, maybe use a buoyant log to hold on to if need be. Lakes can be walked around. But the ocean!!! The oceans offshore must have been terrifying to our very ancient ancestors, and rightly so. The ocean is nothing if not unpredictable and dangerous: from huge waves, gales, riptides, strong currents, razor-sharp rocks and shoals, sharks, jellyfish, hypothermia, and just all sorts of unknowns lurking beneath the surface to add to your terrors. The tides must have seemed to be a purely supernatural manifestation, without natural explanation, an unexplainable action of the gods somehow saying “this is our domain, keep away”.

Would you rather be high and dry 10 miles inland or 10 miles out to sea trying to keep your head above water and not ending up as fish-food? It takes way less effort sit on the beach than to swim or sail in or on the ocean, and it’s a lot safer too!

Further, in most cases with no other land in sight, you haven’t a clue what’s on the other side of the ocean, if anything (maybe it goes on forever and forever), or how far across it is to the other side, and in any event you and your band of nomad hunter-gatherers have more pressing needs, like finding today’s food and tonight’s shelter. The coastlines and seashores offers an abundance of food stuffs and resources: shellfish, crabs, turtles, seals, seabirds, fish, even seaweed (dried for fuel). Coastlines and seashores are good.

Are you really going to stop, make a raft and go sailing out into the pure unknown out of pure curiosity, though curiosity you probably have? No, in the daily hunt for survival you’ll probably ignore the ocean and just follow the coastline – which eventually will bring you to most places. If you come to an impassable barrier, it’s probably easier and far safer to trek inland for awhile than divert resources to swimming or rafting around the barrier with all the dangers that could entail. In any event, it’s not all that east building and sailing and navigating a seaworthy boat or raft from scratch without any handy-dandy how-to manual available. Further, you can’t drink the seawater so freshwater would have to be carried on any hypothetical voyage. Do you have leak-proof containers? If so, how much do you need to take? Who knows?

There are four possible or realistic routes out of Africa. Even during the Ice Ages when sea levels were lower, three involve an ocean crossing, which, I suggest our ancient ancestors would avoid. I think it is far easier, and safer, to just follow the coastline, so I opt for the sole land route, up the west coast of the Red Sea and on up either into the Levant, or back down the east coast of the Red Sea and on into Arabia. You can follow the African coastline ‘Out of Africa’ and eventually reach China, but not Australia, or Japan, or lots of S.E. Asian islands, the Channel Islands (off Southern California), Sri Lanka, etc. Yet you find ancient human and human artefact remains in these places, so our migrating nomadic ancestors obviously did build boats or rafts and sail the ocean blue and satisfy that curiosity, but the real why is unexplained – curiosity is not motive enough to put yourself in harms way. The fly in the ointment, in any event, and alas and alack, there are no boats or rafts to be found, actual remains or pictorial representations, in the prehistoric archaeological record. Boats and rafts are all probable boats and rafts; boats and rafts are assumed but nor proven by any actual evidence. It’s a sort of’Catch-22′. Boats and rafts must be, yet we can’t find them!

It must be said that because of the Ice Ages, ancient coastlines then are now underwater and presumably relevant telltale archaeology (as in remains of boats) is therefore also underwater. Even so, the issue remains that I find it difficult to believe our ancient ancestors would have been brave enough to stick their toes in the oceans without a damn good reason, yet, there were places colonized by early man that even at the height of the Ice Ages there existed no land bridges for them to cross over, say to Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Japan, lots of S.E. Asian islands, and presumably lots of other islands, large and small. Conclusion: That’s a big anomaly that needs a resolution.

Problem Two: Paradise Lost

Crossing the oceans blue is just the start of anomalous migration issues. If money, language barriers, cultural differences, political systems, passports and visas, etc. were of no concern and you could travel to and live anywhere you wished, where would it be? Well, probably somewhere not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, nor too dry, a place where there are abundant natural resources of food, fresh water, wood, stone, and probably some sort of ascetically pleasing scenery, etc. With the exception of the scenery, all those other geographical and climatic factors would be even more pressing for our ancient ancestors with no access to supermarkets, hardware stores, air conditioning, central heating and tap water on demand. So the question arises, given a lack of population pressure way back when, a lack of pressure not driving migration away from paradise and toward hell, why did some of our ancient ancestors adopt a nomadic lifestyle in what we’d consider extreme environments, like arid regions, the tundra, etc.? 

Unlike today’s travellers, when our very remote ancestors roamed the plains of Africa, their nomadic wanderings or migrations were not geography directed. In an era where there was no radio and TV, newspapers and magazines, GPS and the Internet, encyclopaedias and travel agents, there was no knowledge of what was over the hill, beyond the horizon. Food availability directed your travels and migrations. You exhausted one patch of turf – you moved on to the next, and the next, and the next in a sort of random drunkards walk. Logic dictates that even so you didn’t wander out of paradise or a reason facsimile thereof. But eventually, like a drop of ink diffusing through a glass of water, the rest of the world, paradise, hell and points in-between, got invaded by our African out-of-towners – an invasive pest species that was to bring total death and destruction in their wake, but that’s another story. Anyway, why we colonized extremely hostile environments when more pleasant alternatives were available needs a resolution.

Problem Three: Connect the Dots

There are two main types of clues that reveal our likely migration patterns. Firstly, there are those archaeological sites and from those trained professions can usually deduce what hominid species was present and from various dating methods, when. The problem is that such sites are all too few and far between. So, maybe you have an Australian Aboriginal site around the Perth area (S.W. coast) dated to say 30,000 years ago. Then say you have another site around the Sydney area (S.E.Coast) dated to 20,000 years ago. So the conclusion is that some Aborigines migrated from Perth to Sydney over the 10,000 year interval. But there is no sites in-between, so you don’t really know if they migrated in a straight line between the two areas or was it all just a total zigzag. Maybe neither if there is yet an undiscovered third site, say in Darwin (mid-North Coast) from 40,000 years ago, and some Darwin Aborigines followed the west coast route to Perth taking 10,000 years and some others the east coast trek to Sydney taking a span of 20,000 years. You can just about connect the dots anyway you damn well please if it gives evidence to your pet theory.

The second line of evidence is using mitochondrial DNA found in modern humans to try and work back migration routes. For example, if mitochondrial DNA in modern Australian Aborigines has a closer mitochondrial DNA match to modern Indonesians than to modern Fijians, then one might conclude that the Aborigines migrated to Australia from Indonesia and not from Fiji. I personally don’t like this sort of genetic evidence. Firstly, DNA mutates over time. Evolution would be screwed if it didn’t. Secondly, there’s been an awful lot of comings and goings since these initial Out-of-Africa migrations commenced. Thirdly, there’s been an awful lot of breeding between the races so that by now hardly anyone is ‘pure’ anything. Still, the experts put a lot of faith in the testing, so who am I to dispute their ways and means?

So, how do you get from Point A to Point B tens of thousands of years ago when Points A and B are separated by vast ocean distances? Why do you go from Point A to Point B when Point B is relatively undesirable? How in fact do we really know that Points A and B are the be-all-and-end-all of start and finish?

Let’s say Point A is lovely Hawaii, and Point B is the vast arid desert of outback Central Australia. How do you get from A to B? You can’t walk and follow the coastline. You can’t drive or ride a horse. You could build a boat and sail but that’s a hell of a leap of courage you’ve got to master, and in any event you haven’t any idea what direction to head in or that Australia even exists. And even if you did, why would you want to leave Hawaii (Site A) for the Australian Outback; and if you did reach the Outback (Site B) why wouldn’t you turn right around and head back to Hawaii again?

Well, you could be flown non-stop from Hawaii to Central Australia. We crossed over ocean barriers because we were airlifted over them. You could be flown to Central Australia and stranded there. For the same reason, we didn’t voluntarily adopt the tundra as home – it was forced on us as an adapt do-or-die experiment. Flight would also explain the lack of relevant archaeological sites between A and B. If our ancient ancestors nomadically walked thousands of miles between Point A and Point B, you’d expect archaeological evidence to be found along the assumed connect-the-dots route. But if you fly, or are flown, then of course you wouldn’t find any in-between sites containing any relevant archaeological evidence.

Resolutions

Right about now every physical anthropologist reading this is sticking very long and very sharp pins in J.P. voodoo dolls and calling me all sorts of unprintable names. Of course our ancient ancestors didn’t have the technology at hand to fly, so of course no flying machines have been found in the prehistoric archaeological record either. My obvious suggestion here is that ancient astronauts, the ‘gods’ of old (and there’s some evidence that even 30,000-50,000 years ago our ancient ancestors had grasped the concept of the supernatural and of supernatural entities), genetically engineered all of the various Homo something or other from earlier hominids which in turn were artificially selected and bred from African primates, like the chimpanzee. We collectively, Homo something or other, were genetically engineered and given all those anomalous traits associated with Homo something or other, like a super-high IQ, bipedal gait, racial facial and individual facial uniqueness.

From their central African laboratory, Homo something or other was then dispersed over thousands of years as specific and individual experiments in colonization. We were transported here and there, left to our own devices to survive or not – sink or swim.  In most cases it was sink and extinction. But, now and again, it was survival – we floated and we swam. Ultimately nearly all of the Homo something or other went kaput, but Homo sapiens achieved a positive result. We were that robust species (us – modern humans) the end product of all of the engineering and colonization experimentation. At that stage, we were given or taught the gifts of civilization, especially agriculture roughly 10,000 years ago then left petty much alone and to our own devices, with only at-a-distance surveillance – modern UFOs – though some experimentation continues – alien abductions.

There are, IMHO, a couple of other anomalies supporting this wacky idea.

One other anomaly, if we are so crash-hot good to colonise the world (apart from Antarctica and Oceania) and cross some ocean barriers to get to some parts, hence completing the job in the Americas by 13,000 years ago, maybe even way earlier, why didn’t we colonize the Pacific Islands, Oceania east of Australia and west of South America, until really quite recently – starting only some roughly 4000 years before the present, finishing off with New Zealand (except for Antarctica), last cab off the rank way after the start of the Common Era, or A.D. to some. Australia was first populated 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, and New Zealand is just across the road and over the hill, at least compared to the distance back to our African point of origin. Depending on source, it took but 10,000 to 20,000 years to get from Africa to Australia, yet some 70,000 years to get from Africa to New Zealand. Something’s screwy somewhere, but that reinforces the idea that ocean voyages are a relatively recent ability of ours, and therefore, way back when, we didn’t sail cross the oceans blue to Australia, Japan, Sri Lanka, etc. but were taken there.

Another apparent anomaly – while it takes but roughly 60,000 years to colonize the world once we’re Out-of-Africa (except Antarctica and Oceania), it took roughly 130,000 years just to get Out-of-Africa, as if something or someone was blocking our path until they were good and ready to release us into the global wild!

Now reports of aerial machines, flight technologies, are not unknown in the archaeological and/or historical record, albeit not prehistorically far back, rather in the era of recorded ancient history, say the last 10,000 years or so. From the ‘Star’ of Bethlehem, to the Wheel of Ezekiel, to the ‘Sun’ and ‘Moon’ that Joshua stood still (Biblical Mythology); to Vimanas which are Hindu mythological flying machines (mythical self-moving aerial cars, a flying chariot of the gods) as related in various Sanskrit epics; to ‘airplane’ models discovered in both ancient Egypt (dated to about 200 BCE) and little gold model ‘airplanes’ from Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican and South American regions, dating from roughly 500 to 800 CE. Scaled-up replicas of these American and Egyptian ‘aircraft’ have found them to be aerodynamically flight worthy. There are also no shortages of art works from antiquity that at face value appear to show what today would be called Flying Saucers, or Daylight Discs, or just plain Unidentified Flying Objects. Finally, aerial ‘chariots’ and extremely large ‘birds’ that ferry the ‘gods’ around are more the norm than not in many mythologies.