What does it take to change the minds of world class curmudgeons? World class evidence!
For decades, if not centuries, we’ve been fed this idea that our progenitors were stupid brutes. The idea that people, even a few individuals, of previous eras could be anywhere near as smart as our current crop of academicians was cause for guffaws from said academicians. Time to listen up, boys and girls, your great grand daddy was a lot smarter than you used to think and probably was smarter than you are now. That is, ancient man seems to have been able to navigate without tools, math, or maps, using only his innate senses to guide himself and his vessel across open water. The alternative is that he had those things. Either way, he could do something we didn’t think he could until now.
The Island of Cyprus is not within sight of any mainland anywhere. It’s about a hundred miles from the nearest coast. In order to reach Crete by any known transportation means requires a set of complex skills related to operating a vessel or vehicle and navigation of that craft, itself a set of complex mathematical and spatial relationship skills.
We know early humans reached Cyprus, Crete, and at least several other Mediterranean islands because of the lithic evidence, the stone tools, they left behind. We kind of know by context and modern technology how long those stone tools have been there and how long ago they were modified from base stone to artifact, although some of the sites have somewhat jumbled context, confusing the issues of age. We know that these travelers not only made it to Cyprus, Crete, Melos, and several other islands in the eastern Med, but that they also made it back to the mainland and used or traded materials only found on the islands, carrying those materials back onto the mainland, particularly a type of volcanic glass called obsidian from Melos.
So, how were Neanderthal or Homo Erectus or whatever species it was, able to get to Crete 170,000 years ago (YA) to make, use, and leave stone tools, now 170,000 year old (YO)? How long has man, his close relatives, and the supposed common ancestor been able to sail and navigate? Well, we have a limited set of evidences on that one, but one bit of evidence points to a date somewhere exceeding 1.1 million years.
Ancient Mariners: Did Neanderthals Sail to Mediterranean? By Charles Choi, LiveScience Contributor | LiveScience.com
Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought.
This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.
Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.
“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
However, in the last 20 years or so, some evidence has surfaced for a human presence on these islands dating back immediately before the Neolithic. [Image Gallery: Our Closest Human Ancestor]
“There’s still a lot to find in archaeology — you have to keep pushing the envelope in terms of conventional wisdom,” Simmons said.
We also know that humans reached Australia some 60,000 YO to 65,000 YO. The minimum sea level at that time, when much of the world’s water was caught up in ice sheets in the northern hemisphere, still required a minimum voyage of more than a hundred miles between Timor and the Australian coast.