The connectivity of oceans and human survival

Business jargon uses SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) to determine decision making. I would suggest this is probably how all humans have approached challenges of survival, but business jargon has encapsulated the process.

As the oceans warmed and the ice melted at the end of the last glacial age, around 11000 BC, humans saw climate change transforming their landscapes, sometimes for the better, often for the worst. If it was for the worst, humans had to think their way out of the problem. SWOT analysis was likely their chosen methodology.

At the height of the Ice Ages (and there were at least twenty!), sea levels were up to 300 ft lower than today. Just 8,000 years ago not only was much of the North Sea dry land, but so was the Irish Sea and the English Channel. In between these glaciations, the ice would melt and sea levels rise. Freed from the weight of ice, northern Britain began to rise while southern Britain began to sink – a process that continues today as the land tilt steepens. Long, dry raised beaches can be seen in Scotland, while more and more land is lost to the sea in the south and in the east. We make much of rising sea levels and global warming today, but consider the effects of massive amounts of water being released into the sea as the ice caps (covering much of the Northern Hemisphere) melted. Sea levels rose not by a foot or two, but by hundreds of feet.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated:

The two major causes of global sea level rise are thermal expansion of the oceans (water expands as it warms) and the loss of land-based ice due to increased melting…

 Global sea level rose by about 120 m during the several millennia that followed the end of the last ice age (approximately 21,000 years ago), and stabilised between 3,000 and 2,000 years ago. Sea level indicators suggest that global sea level did not change significantly from then until the late 19th century. The instrumental record of modern sea level change shows evidence for onset of sea level rise during the 19th century. Estimates for the 20th century show that global average sea level rose at a rate of about 1.7 mm yr–1.”


Earth when sea levels were 120m lower than today.(See

When humans were faced with more water and less land, they built watercraft, a high level innovation. But now we know they didn’t just learn to sail around 3000 BC. No. Recent findings of amazing voyages have been discovered and dated as happening up to 130, 000 years ago!

Michael Morwood, an archaeologist at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia, has long proposed that Homo erectus voyaged from the Indonesian island of Bali to nearby Flores, where excavations have revealed 700,000- to 800,000-year-old stone tools. Models for the early hominin dispersal out of Africa received considerable attention when the joint Australian-Indonesian research team headed by Morwood discovered Homo floresiensis in the Liang Bua cave on the island of Flores, Indonesia (Morwood & Oosterzee 2007). The finding of Homo floriensis, released on 28 October 2004, has implications for the dispersal of hominin and human dispersal out of Africa, and the colonisation of Asia. It has attracted substantial debate from, in part, supporters of the multi-regionalist theory of Homo sapiens evolution (Morwood). The continued study of Homo floriensis has taken a multidisciplinary approach including palaeanthropological, morphological (see Kaif et al. 2011), and pathological analysis combined with dentition study, ancient DNA extraction and tomographical techniques. Of additional interest to the find are the lithic tools associated with the discovery of Homo floriensis and the cognitive behaviours connected with their manufacture and use (Brumm et al. 2006). Recent research estimates the faunal sequence and minimum age for hominins on Flores at 1.1million years ago, ensuring the study covers the entire period of hominin habitation in the region. Excavations at Mata Menge, Flores, hope to provide greater evidence on the early hominin colonisation of the Indonesian area. The public interest in these hominin finds have sparked numerous documentaries and written works detailing all manner of scientific investigation and discussion on the subject.

Some 130,000 years ago, scientists say, a mysterious group of ancient people visited the coastline of what is now Southern California. More than 100,000 years before they were supposed to have arrived in the Americas, these unknown people used five heavy stones to break the bones of a mastodon. They cracked open femurs to suck out the marrow and, using the rocks as hammers, scored deep notches in the bone. When finished, they abandoned the materials in the soft, fine soil; one tusk planted upright in the ground like a single flag in the archaeological record. Then the people vanished. Perhaps there was a sudden jump in sea levels which cut them off from their watercraft. We can’t know how the previous ice age melts behaved, but we do know from the last Ice Age, as researchers from Southampton tell us, that sea-level rose by an estimated average of about 1 metre per century, interrupted by rapid ‘jumps’ during which it rose by up to 2.5 metres per century. The findings were published in Global and Planetary Change.

Sea levels began to stabilise by around 3000 BC. It is now evident from archaeological finds that Ancient Egyptians knew how to assemble wooden planks into a hull. They used woven straps to lash the planks together, and reeds or grass stuffed between the planks helped to seal the seams. The Greek historian and geographer Agatharchides had documented ship-faring among the early Egyptians: “During the prosperous period of the Old Kingdom, between the 30th and 25th centuries B. C., the river-routes were kept in order, and Egyptian ships sailed the Red Sea as far as the myrrh-country.” Sneferu’s ancient cedar wood ship Praise of the Two Lands is the first reference recorded (2613 BC) to a ship being referred to by name.

The ancient Egyptians were perfectly at ease building sailboats. A remarkable example of their shipbuilding skills was the Khufu ship, a vessel 143 feet (44 m) in length entombed at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza around 2500 BC and found intact in 1954.

Khufu’s ship is one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved vessels from antiquity. It measures 43.6 m (143 ft) long and 5.9 m (19.5 ft) wide.

It was thus identified as the world’s oldest intact ship and has been described as “a masterpiece of woodcraft” that could sail today if put into water, lake and river. However, the vessel may not have been designed for sailing (no rigging) or paddling (no room).

The ship was one of two rediscovered in 1954 by Kamal el-Mallakh – undisturbed since it was sealed into a pit carved out of the Giza bedrock. It was built largely of Lebanon cedar planking in the “shell-first” construction technique, using unpegged tenons of Christ’s thorn. The ship was built with a flat bottom composed of several planks, but no actual keel, with the planks and frames lashed together with Halfah grass, and has been reconstructed from 1,224 pieces which had been laid in a logical, disassembled order in the pit beside the pyramid.

Image of reconstructed ship

Power was centred on the Mycenaean armies, donning their magnificent Bronze armour, and utilising their finely crafted weapons. They shared several common features with other significant Late Bronze Age powers: they were initially based on heavy infantry, which bore spears, large shields and, in some occasions, armor. Later in the 13th century BC, Mycenaean warfare underwent major changes both in tactics and weaponry. Armed units became more uniform and flexible, while weapons became smaller and lighter. The spear remained the main weapon among Mycenaean warriors until the collapse of the Bronze Age, while the sword played a secondary role in combat. The process of making their quality bronze products required traders like the seafaring Phoenecians.

The Phoenecians were the people who sailed to far off lands from the Mediterranean, to find rare materials. These people were vital to the power base of the hierarchical Bronze Age Mycenaean empire which existed toward the final era of the Bronze Age. The Mesopotamian Bronze Age began about 3500 BC and ended with the Kassite period (c. 1500BC – c. 1155 BC). The making of bronze armour and weaponry required Copper-tin ores which were only found in far flung places that only sailors like the Phoenicians dared to explore. There were no tin bronzes in Western Asia before trading in bronze began in the 3rd millennium BC. The bronze age collapse occurred about 1200 BC after flourishing since 3000 BC, a period of 1800 years.

The important bronze age civilizations were centered in the area from modern-day Turkey, Iran, Iraq all the way south to Egypt. To make bronze required the casseritite. The name derives from the Greek kassiteros for “tin”; or from the Phoenician word Cassiterid referring to the islands of Ireland and Britain, the ancient sources of tin; or, as Roman Ghirshman (1954) suggests, from the region of the Kassites, an ancient people in west and central Iran.

The Phoenicians were master sailors, traders and craftsmen who established a great commercial network from their homeland on the coastal areas of the modern day Syrian and Lebanese coast from their great trading cities of Tyre, Sidon, Byblos, Acco and Berytus (Beirut) . Their commercial empire extended throughout the ancient Mediterranean world and they established colonies in Cyprus, Sardinia. Sicily, Malta, North Africa, Tripolis (Libya), Ikossim (Algiers), Spain, Gadir (Cadiz), Malaca (Malaga) and Ibossim (Ibiza). Phoenician sailors braved the seas beyond the Pillar of Hercules to sail as far as the modern day Azores, Senegal and Ireland . 

According to the Greek historian Herodotus, a Phoenician fleet was commissioned to circumnavigate Africa by Pharaoh Necho (610-595 B.C.), however, there is no Egyptian evidence for this feat . However, there is historical evidence that Hanno the Navigator (c. 500 B.C.) did sail as far south as modern day Senegal with a large fleet . 

Tracking languages, a 2009 Bayesian analysis identified an origin for Semitic languages in the Levant around 3750 BC with a later single introduction of Ge’ez from what is now South Arabia into the Horn of Africa around 800 BC, with a slightly earlier introduction into parts of North Africa and southern Spain with the founding of Phoenician colonies such as ancient Carthage in the ninth century BC and Cádiz in the tenth century BC. The earliest records of Semitic languages are from 30th century BCE Mesopotamia.

To maintain the Phoenicians commercial empire, they built hundreds of colonies, some of which became great cities themselves, such as Carthage, which became powerful enough to challenge Rome itself . 

They developed a more efficient writing system, the alphabet, which spread throughout the Mediterranean with their trade. The Phoenician alphabet developed from the North Emetic alphabet and was in use as early as the 11th cent B.C. and is the ancestor of Arabic, Latin, Hebrew and Greek scripts and the script to write this very article . Phoenician and Punic (Carthaginian Phoenician was in use until the first cent B.C. in Phoenicia and the third cent A.D. in North Africa . St. Augustine was the last ancient writer with knowledge of Punic.

During the sixteenth century B.C. the Phoenicians were made subject to Egypt and remained under Egyptian rule for over four centuries.

After 1200 B.C., they enjoyed a period of independence, the Phoenician golden age of sea commerce and culture from 1200 to 800 B.C. Phoenician traders have been credited with the rebirth of the Mediterranean economy and culture after the Late Bronze Age ( c. 1550 B.C.) collapse of the Hittites and Mycenaens in the 1200s B.C. and helped bring Greece out of the isolation of the so called Greek Dark Ages of 1200~800 B.C.

A rare genome has been identified in an ancient body pulled from a sarcophagus on a site near ancient Carthage, in a discovery which could throw new light on the history of human movement.

The DNA of the 2,500-year-old remains of the ‘Young Man of Byrsa’ , discovered in 1994 and believed to be that of a young male Phoenician, was sequenced by a team of scientists.

They found it contained an extremely rare type of genome sequence, known as U5b2c1, which is almost unknown among modern populations. The research has now been published in the scientific journal Plos One. 

“This is first example of an ancient Phoenician genome,” Professor Lisa Matisoo-Smith, co-leader of the study with Dr Pierre Zalloua, told The Independent. The DNA was found on the site of Byrsa, a citadel close to the ancient city of Carthage, which now just outside Tunis, Tunisia.

The collapse of the power bases of the Bronze Age empires was caused by an unexpected and powerful attack of the Sea Peoples. The nationality of the Sea Peoples remains a mystery as the existing records of their activities are mainly Egyptian sources who only describe them in terms of battle such as the record from the Stele at Tanis which reads, in part, “They came from the sea in their war ships and none could stand against them.” This description is typical of Egyptian references to these mysterious invaders. 


This famous scene from the north wall of Medinet Habu is often used to illustrate the Egyptian campaign against the Sea Peoples in what has come to be known as the Battle of the Delta. Whilst accompanying hieroglyphs do not name Egypt’s enemies, describing them simply as being from “northern countries”, early scholars noted the similarities between the hairstyles and accessories worn by the combatants and other reliefs in which such groups are named.

These people may have been ‘outsiders’ of their surrounding numerous empire structures across from their island existence. Their irritation may have become channeled into a plan of attack.  It was certainly overwhelming and catastrophic to their victims, as a tsunami might have been.

 In the end the Sea People were defeated, but they left a trail of disaster and horror. They had used their mastery of the sea to attack the complacent people. 

At this point in their history it seems the Sea Peoples were seeking to establish permanent settlements in Egypt as the invading force brought with them scores of household goods and building tools. Merenptah, after praying, fasting, and consulting the gods in the matter of strategy, met the Sea Peoples on the field at Pi-yer where the combined Egyptian force of infantry, cavalry, and archers slew over 6,000 of their opponents and took captive members of the royal Libyan family. Merenptah claimed complete victory and Egypt’s borders were again secure. To celebrate his accomplishment, he had the story immortalized in the Karnak inscription and also on the famous Merenptah Stele found in his funerary temple at Thebes. 

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see
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1 Response to The connectivity of oceans and human survival

  1. Pingback: The connectivity of oceans and human survival — borderslynn | Die Goldene Landschaft

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