View Full Version : The Neanderthals Were Mariners

Storm Saxon
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012, 05:10 PM
It looks like Neanderthals may have beaten modern humans to the seas. Growing evidence suggests that our extinct humanoid cousins once criss-crossed the Mediterranean Sea in boats from over 100,000 years ago — though not everyone is convinced they weren’t just good swimmers.

Neanderthals lived around the Mediterranean from 300,000 years ago. Their distinctive stone tools are found on the Greek mainland and, intriguingly, have also been found on the Greek islands of Lefkada, Kefalonia and Zakynthos. That could be explained in two ways: either the islands weren’t true islands at the time, or our distant cousins sailed across the water somehow.

Now, George Ferentinos of the Athens University in Greece says that we can rule out the former. The islands, he says, have been cut off from the mainland for just as long as the stone tools have been on them.

Ferentinos compiled data that showed sea levels were 120 metres lower 100,000 years ago, because all that water was locked up inside Earth’s larger ice caps from the Ice Ages. But the seabed in Greece today drops down to around 300 metres, meaning that when Neanderthals were in the region, the sea would have been at least 180 metres deep (Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016).

Greek scientists think that Neanderthals had an ancient seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years. Modern humans are believed to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago, on crossing to Australia.

The journeys to the Greek islands from the mainland were quite short — only about 12 kilometres — but according to Thomas Strasser of Providence College, the ancient Neanderthals didn’t stop there. In 2008, he found similar stone tools on Crete, which he says are at least 130,000 years old. Crete has been an island for some 5 million years and is 40 kilometres from its closest neighbour — suggesting far more ambitious journeys.


Imagine that. 100,000 years ago, the Neanderthals were sailing across the Mediterranean Sea, and 5 minutes ago an African negro was building a mud hut.

It really puts things into perspective.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012, 05:25 PM
You know-the contention that Neanderthals were a seafaring race might provide an answer to a question that I've asked quite a few times:

Who built the first kayak?

Think about it. The kayak is an absolute marvel of design. Everything needed for a boat used to hunt, nothing that's not needed. With a skilled operator, it thrives in conditions that sent the Titanic to the ocean floor. It's built from sticks and skins, can often be carried with one hand, and is about as perfectly suited for its intended purpose as is possible.

And again, with a skilled operator, it can be righted if it gets flipped upside down. We have boats today that are self righting, but those are expensive and relatively uncommon. The kayak has had that capability from the 1.0 release. So who built the first one? And who was the lucky, or unbelievably skilled individual that figured out how to roll one back upright for the first time? Is this individual enshrined in the folktales of the people who live by hunting from skin boats? If not, he ought to be.

I'm not impuning the Inuit and other tribes that operate these technical masterpieces. But I've often wondered if the design predates us, and the Arctic peoples learned how to build these wonders from some older Neanderthal culture that had numerous thousands of years to perfect the concept.

Storm Saxon
Tuesday, March 6th, 2012, 07:05 PM
Also, this:

"The fact that Neanderthals could adapt to new conditions and innovate shows they are culturally similar to us," he said. "Biologically they are also similar. I believe they were a subspecies of human but not a different species."

"Research shows they contributed between 1 and 4 percent of their genetic material to the people of Asia and Europe."