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The Neanderthal at Sea

March 14, 2012

Neanderthals lived around the Mediterranean from 300,000 years ago. Their distinctive “Mousterian” 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 islands at the time, or our distant cousins crossed the water somehow…

Ferentinos thinks Neanderthals had a seafaring culture for tens of thousands of years. Modern humans are thought to have taken to the seas just 50,000 years ago, on crossing to Australia…

Strasser agrees Neanderthals were seafaring long before modern humans, in the Mediterranean at least. He thinks early hominins made much more use of the sea than anyone suspects, and may have used the seas as a highway, rather than seeing them as a barrier. But the details remain lost in history. Any craft were presumably made from wood, so rotted away long ago. The oldest known Mediterranean boat, a dugout canoe from Lake Bracciano in Italy, is just 7000 years old. Ferentinos speculates that Neanderthals may have made something similar…

Even if Ferentinos is right, the Neanderthals were probably not the first hominin seafarers. One million-year-old stone tools have been found on the Indonesian island of Flores. Something, perhaps primitive Homo erectus, crossed the sea to Flores before Neanderthals even evolved.

A nice read.  Just makes you realize how entrenched the oceans have been in human and pre-human society.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Glenn permalink
    March 14, 2012 11:42 am

    This post should have been titled “Did early hominins hang 10?”. 😉

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