2.5 Mya Africa: Homo habilis (Handy Man) to 15.5 thousand years ago in Americas

We all know how we each care about the location attributes of where we find ourselves living. We may be, currently, thousands of years down the line since our ancestors began to walk on two legs rather then four, but we all continue to seek shelter, food and water, and safety from harm. 

We grow out from our birth family and seek our own shelter as adults, intending to settle and maybe stay close to our extended family and/or move away and become part of another group or bigger community. Various groups of early humans seem to have done that, thus expanding the migratory, nomadic and exploratory behaviour of human temperament.

Whether we are nomadic or settled, we arrive at a place and we utilise the environment to extract what we need to live each day. We look for plenty of water, food sources, places to set up home. This is what it meant to be human thousands of years ago, and this is what it still means today.

All wild creatures have an acute sense of danger, and their existence depends on them being alert and wary of other predators. Human existence has obviously evolved to try and avoid death from more powerful animals, poisonous substances, high risk environments. This has always been a major challenge, as it has been for all non extinct present day creatures who inhabit this planet.

Early humans must have noticed how quickly the flesh fell away from dead things and left bones. These bones varied in size. Small bones could be used for delicate workings, big bones as weapons to kill or defend. To break a bone by smashing it with something very heavy, like a heavy rock, would reveal healthy marrow inside the bone to eat, which was highly nourishing. So the reward for using a tool, in this case a heavy stone, to break a strong bone, and find nourishment from marrow within the bone, will have been a first stage of understanding tool use. Chimps will use sticks to reach for food difficult to obtain, such as a food within a hollow of a tree. Utilising material found in the immediate environment as a tool was already part of the ancestral tree before it branched off to the human branch.

Where areas of the earth were not glaciated, in some places there were forests. Different trees had different attributes, bushes and tall grasses all could be used. Much of the knowledge of edible and poisonous berries and roots would have been known since way back in our branch of chimp ancestry. 

One day we came to understand how to make fire. This could be used to warm us, eventually to heat food, to brandish at threatening predators, to one day use to forge tools.

The Paleolithic era extends from the earliest known use of stone tools, probably by Homo habilis (see below how ‘handy man’ was so named) initially, 2.6 million years ago, to the end of the Pleistocene around 10,000 BP. It is estimated that 1 million humans were on the earth around 10,000 BP.

We find evidence across the world of pockets of early humans developing the ability over time to make tools, and apply them, in an increasingly sophisticated way. These were tools for making and creating useful everyday things, for scavenging more effectively to expand dietary choices. The rise in weapon standards for hunting and killing proved to be a necessary step to survive and cope with predators.

I have put together a list here of selected significant discoveries from Africa, to Europe to the Americas since upright man (Homo erectus) and handy man (Homo habilis).

The stage of development of our ancient ancestor, known as “upright man,” when walking on two legs instead of four, marked a new and useful stage of modern humans. The dating of bones of such ancestors has revealed they lived from 2 million years ago till about 100,000 years ago, possibly even 50,000 years ago. Their fossilised remains have been found across the globe, including South Africa, Kenya, Spain, China, and Java (Indonesia).

The early evolved “handy man” who made tools emerged in this same Pleistocene era.

Tool discoveries:

2.5 million years: Oldowan stone tools eg. Tanzania ancestor stage, Homo habilis. Used lava and quartz, which was the only form of stone available.

1.5 million years: Archeulian stone tools eg. Found in Lézignan-la-Cèbe, also Grotte du Vallonnet near Menton, France. Extensive stone tools, artefacts, remains found covering the Pleistocene era, found France, Spain. Used Flint 

1 million years: stone tools, Tanzania. Used Lava and Quartz.

800,000 years: stone tools Happisburgh, England. Used Flint.

500,000 years: Wood spears Schöningen, Germany

500,000 years: stone tools found with early human fossilised remains in Boxgrove, W.Sussex. Used Flint.

300,000 Neanderthals arrived in France, no doubt by watercraft (a vital tool).

280,000 years: Flint tools, Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco 

43,000 years: Cro-Magnons: oldest works of art in the world, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux in southern France

40,000 years: Migration of early humans arrive in Australia, most probably form Africa via Indonesia to islands in the Pacific region via land bridges where they arose.

30,000 years no further sign of Neanderthals in France

21,000 years: lithic technology, referred to as the Solutrean industry, France. The new Solutrean flint technology was far superior to anything that had been seen before. Many of the implements produced were arrow heads and spear points, usually leaf shaped, and exceptionally thin in cross section

15,500 years: Pre-Clovis stone tools, Debra L. Friedkin site,Buttermilk Creek, Texas, USA

The following terminology simply describes an early part of human tool industry, a vital indicator of their means of survival.

Olduwan

The Oldowan is the oldest-known stone tool industry. Dating as far back as 2.5 million years ago, these tools are a major milestone in human evolutionary history: the earliest evidence of cultural behavior. Homo habilis, an ancestor of Homo sapiens, manufactured Oldowan tools.

Image Oldowan tool

Acheulian

Very early Acheulean stone tools occur across most of Africa, except in rainforest regions. These tools have also been found throughout Eurasia, in more recent deposits south of the regions of Pleistocene glaciation. In Asia, they are known from Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, and southeast Asia. In Europe, they reached as far north as the Danube and, further west, are known from France (where tools of this industry were first recognized), as well as the lower Rhine valley and southern Britain. Further north, glaciers prevented human occupation.

When the Leakey family began doggedly searching the Olduvai Gorge, or Oldupai Gorge, in the Great Rift Valley in Tanzania, (see https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g293751-d480292-Reviews-Olduvai_Gorge-Serengeti_National_Park.html). The Leakey family were rewarded for their decades of hard work in finding ‘the origins of man’.  

They chose to search this steep sided ravine stretching across East Africa. It is about 48 km (30 mi) long, and is located in the eastern Serengeti Plains in the Arusha Region not far, about 45 kilometres (28 miles), from Laetoli.

The Great Rift Valley as originally described was thought to extend from Lebanon in the north to Mozambique in the south, where it constitutes one of two distinct physiographic provinces of the East African mountains. It included what we would call today the Lebanese section of the Dead Sea Transform, the Jordan Rift Valley, Red Sea Rift and the East African Rift.

Today these rifts and faults are seen as distinct, although connected. These were only formed 35 million years ago.

Tanzania (/ˌtænzəˈniːə/),officially the United Republic of Tanzania (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a sovereign state in eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region. It borders Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south; and the Indian Ocean to the east. Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.

Some prehistoric population migrations into Tanzania include Southern Cushitic speakers who moved south from Ethiopia; Eastern Cushitic people who moved into Tanzania from north of Lake Turkana about 2,000 and 4,000 years ago; and the Southern Nilotes, including the Datoog, who originated from the present-day South Sudan-Ethiopia border region between 2,900 and 2,400 years ago. These movements took place at about the same time as the settlement of the Mashariki Bantu from West Africain the Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika areas. They subsequently migrated across the rest of Tanzania between 2,300 and 1,700 years ago.

Lava and quartz were used to make tools in Olduvai Gorge. Only in the period 1.65 to 1.53 ma was chert (Flint) used, and it presents a significant difference in appearance among the assemblages of Olduvai Gorge.

The archaeologist Pat Shipman provided evidence that scavenging was probably the more common practice; she published that the majority of carnivore teeth marks came before the cut marks. Another finding by Shipman at FLK-Zinj is that many of the wildebeest bones found there are over-represented by adult and male bones; and this may indicate that hominins were systematically hunting these animals as well as scavenging them. The issue of hunting versus gathering at Olduvai Gorge is still a controversial one.

Mary Leakey and son Jonathan found a small form of hominin that they called Homo habilis, translated as “handy human,” because it seemed he was able to use tools. This fossil was dated at about 2 million years old. This was confirmed when another son, Richard, discovered another Homo habilis in 1972.

The oldest definitive stone tools were found in the Gorge and date to 2.6 million years ago. 

Since the Leakey expedition, more recent discoveries of stone tools have been revealed by searching the Olduvai Gorge. Under the organizational umbrella of the Olduvai Geochronology Archaeology Project, an international team of scientists composed of a consortium of researchers and institutions have an ongoing study underway.  

Image of a large stone tool shown below is estimated to be 1 million years old. 

Image British Museum, Discott, Wikimedia


A handaxe from Olduvai Gorge, over 1 million years old. This stone tool is most often associated with Homo erectus, a hominin considered by many scientists to be a possible human (Homo) ancestor. Homo erectus is widely thought to be the first species to venture out of Africa to populate the Middle East/Eurasia. British Museum, Discott, Wikimedia Commons

Flint is generally considered the stone material of choice for early man, however this stone is only found in specific geological areas and so was one of mainly types of stone used through prehistory. Flint is a hard, sedimentary cryptocrystalline form of the mineral quartz, categorized as a variety of chert. It occurs chiefly as nodules and masses in sedimentary rocks, such as chalks and limestones.

Certain types of flint, such as that from the south coast of England, contain trapped fossilised marine flora. Pieces of coral and vegetation have been found preserved like amber inside the flint. Thin slices of the stone often reveal this effect.

Puzzling giant flint formations known as paramoudra and flint circles are found around Europe but especially in Norfolk, England on the beaches at Beeston Bump and West Runton.

Flint sometimes occurs in large flint fields in Jurassic or Cretaceous beds, for example, in Europe.

Morocco

This year (2017) a find in Morocco at the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco located stone tools. These appear to date to the early Middle Stone Age, an ancient cultural stage in the north, east, and south of Africa that began around 280,000 years ago.

At the site, fragments of burned flint suggested that humans used fire intensely there.

France

Stone tools discovered at Lézignan-la-Cèbe in 2009 indicate that early humans were present in France at least 1.57 million years ago.

The Grotte du Vallonnet near Menton contained simple stone tools dating to 1 million to 1.05 million years BC. Cave sites were exploited for habitation, but the hunter-gatherers of the Palaeolithic era also possibly built shelters such as those identified in connection with Acheulean tools at Grotte du Lazaret and Terra Amata near Nice in France. Excavations at Terra Amata found traces of the earliest known domestication of fire in Europe, from 400,000 BC.

The Neanderthals are thought to have arrived there around 300,000 BC, but seem to have died out by about by 30,000 – they are likely to have bred with the hominins they met in the region. We also know the Neanderthals were seafaring and they probably set off to find warmer climates. But the Stone Age skills will have evolved and been added to their arsenal of abilities. Evidence of cannibalism among Neanderthals was found in Neanderthal settlements Moula-Guercy and Les Pradelles. Cannibalism appears throughout human history, and perhaps was a genetic trait carried on, since we all possess some Neanderthal genes.

The earliest modern humans – Cro-Magnons – were present in Europe by 43,000 years ago during a long interglacial period of particularly mild climate, when Europe was relatively warm, and food was plentiful. When they arrived in Europe, they brought with them sculpture, engraving, painting, body ornamentation, music and the painstaking decoration of utilitarian objects. Some of the oldest works of art in the world, such as the cave paintings at Lascaux in southern France, are datable to shortly after this migration.

Map Solutrean Industry


Towards the end of the Palaeolithic period, around 21,000 years ago, humans living in what is now France and Spain, developed a very finely crafted and technically sophisticated lithic technology, referred to as the Solutrean industry (from the type site in the Solutrè region of eastern France). The people who developed this new technology were probably the same people who executed the beautiful cave paintings at Altamira and Lascaux (right) and other cave sites that also date from the Upper Palaeolithic. Their innovations are thus seen as part of the first flowering of human artistic expression that has survived. 

Although humans had been making finely flaked bifaces (“hand axes”) of the Acheulian type for hundreds of thousands of years, the new Solutrean flint technology was far superior to anything that had been seen before. Many of the implements produced were arrow heads and spear points, usually leaf shaped, and exceptionally thin in cross section.

These finely produced spear heads are unlike other prehistoric tools found globally.

Solutrean industry images

Image: Solutrean tools, 22,000–17,000 BP, Crot du Charnier, Solutré-Pouilly, Saône-et-Loire, France


There is indirect evidence for Paleolithic ocean travel, perhaps to the Americas. Although no boats have been found, we now know that by at least 40,000 years ago, watercraft carried a founding population to Australia. By 28,000 years ago, flintknappers were collecting raw materials from islands far off the Japanese coast. And closer to Spain, Paleolithic peoples inhabited some of the Mediterranean islands at least 14,000 years ago.(see Dennis Stanford, an anthropologist with The Smithsonian Institution and Bruce Bradley, an archaeologist with University of Exeter, put forward this theory in a paper published in World Archaeology in 2004 and, in expanded form, in their book ‘Across Atlantic Ice’ (2012).

Four wooden spears made around 400,000 years ago were found in Schöningen in Germany. The 2m spears were found in soil whose acids had been neutralised by a high concentration of chalk near the coal pit. Such spears (made of yew or spruce) would have been thrusting weapons not javelins, due to their poor piercing power as a projectile so would have required the hunters to ambush their prey. This was the likely scenario are Schoningen where (based on environmental data) the hunters would have been hiding in reeds around a large lake waiting for a group of wild horses who they ambushed. 

Boxgrove, W.Sussex, England

Boxgrove (UK) gives further evidence of spear use for hunting large fauna, here a horse scapula was found with what appears to be a hole from a fire hardened spear. Boxgrove is one of the best, if not the best, site where a fossilised early human remains have been discovered and many stone tools from 500,000 years ago.

Horse shoulder blade or scapula from Boxgrove, England, about 500,000 years old


Image Credit: James Di Loreto, & Donald H. Hurlbert, Smithsonian Institution
Stone tools images from Boxgrove



Americas

Many exciting PreClovis sites are being discovered over the Americas. These all show later Pleistocene hominins existence in the Americas. There are theories as to how they arrived, and whether their nomadic life included leaving by some watercraft, perhaps finding sources of food to take to other locations.

Buttermilk Creek, Texas – Unknown to many, but placed on the map in early 2011 when Texas A&M University anthropologist Michael Waters, plus his team, painstakingly excavated an archaeological site, known as the Debra L. Friedkin site, for years. 

They found 15,528 artifacts at the Buttermilk Creek Complex, as researchers are now calling the assemblage, which contained evidence of small blades, choppers and scrapers.

Some of the images of the numerous artefacts

“Most of these are chipping debris from the making and resharpening of tools,” said Waters, “but over 50 are tools. There are bifacial artifacts that tell us they were making projectile points and knives at the site. There are expediently made tools and blades that were used for cutting and scraping.”

Waters and his associates used Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) dating, a technique that measures the amount of light energy trapped over thousands of years in minerals within the sediment surrounding artifacts. Professor Steven Forman of the University of Illinois at Chicago worked with Waters at the site, collecting 50 core samples from two sites at Buttermilk Creek for testing. “We found Buttermilk Creek to be about 15,500 years ago — a few thousand years before Clovis” said Forman. “We dated the sediments by a variety of optical methods. We also dated different mineral fractions as well, and we consistently got the same ages. We looked at the age structure of the sediment by many different ways and got the same answers.”  

Most significantly, the findings constitute more evidence that Paleo-Indians settled the Americas before 13,000 – 13,500 B.P.E., the earliest date range that has traditionally been assigned to the emergence of the “Clovis” cultural horizon

Said Waters, “We’re looking at another pre-Clovis locality in North America where, in this case, bone weaponry was used to hunt mastodons 800 years before Clovis stone weaponry show up on the landscape.”

I’m surmising……

From my perspective, this all looks like it took around million years to evolve from Oldowan to Archeulian tools. Thereafter, the incremental improvement in skills, highlighted in the amazing French (and Spanish examples, not detailed here) reveal tens of thousands of years to create more sophisticated artefacts until the late Pleistocene. We then note high sophistication of the Solutreans, but less sophistication in those groups living far away on another continent, the Americas. To be able to live in one geographical area and build a population who can pass on skills to their descendants seems to be the striking key to progress in the Iberian Peninsula and France. This may be linked to the Moroccan site of recent interest. Perhaps some Neanderthals when they were in France, sailed back to Africa, having begun their travels in East Africa, thousands of years before, taking with them the stages of skill developed whilst visitors to France.

We can all have opinions on this, given the findings presented so far. I look forward to more pieces of this exciting jigsaw being made available for us to imagine our ancestral routes and value this Planet which has provided for us since our inception.

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Flooding in the Americas: Neolithic farming

Starting about 12,900 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was abruptly gripped by centuries of cold, as mentioned in previous blogs, the Younger Dryas. Scientists have suggested this chill helped wipe out most of the large mammals in North America as well as the so-called Clovis people. 

There must have been so many events which destroyed emerging human cultures, leaving little, if any, trace of their existence.

Mighty floods, such as the Noah’s Arc tale, are described anecdotally throughout the world, by most diverse cultures. The stories are similar: few survivors remain to begin human existence once more after the flood. 

The source of one such flood was apparently the glacial Lake Agassiz, (see http://www.macroevolution.net/lake-agassiz.html) located along the southern margin of the Laurentide Ice Sheet, which at its maximum 21,000 years ago was 6,500 to 9,800 feet (2,000 to 3,000 meters) thick and covered much of North America, from the Arctic Ocean south to Seattle and New York.

“The flood was likely caused by the sudden breaking of an ice dam,” said researcher Alan Condron, a physical oceanographer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “Prior to the flood, meltwater is thought to have drained into the Gulf of Mexico, down the Mississippi River. After the dam broke, the water rapidly flowed into the ocean via a different river drainage system.” (See https://www.livescience.com/29625-seven-ways-the-earth-changes-in-the-blink-of-an-eye-100809html.html)

Some scientists recently suggested this meltwater may have flooded into the Arctic Ocean via the Mackenzie Valley about 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) northwest of the St. Lawrence outlet.

Floods occur regularly all over the world. They may not disrupt the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, as in this pouring of freshwater into the oceans, but they cause terrible destruction.

There is a precious area of land, known as the American Bottom which is part of the Mississippi Flyway used by migrating birds and has the greatest concentration of bird species in Illinois. The flood plain is bounded on the east by a nearly continuous, 200–300 foot high, 80-mile (130 km) long bluff of limestone and dolomite, above which begins the great prairie that covers most of the state. The Mississippi River bounds the Bottom on its west, and the river abuts the bluffline on the Missouri side. Portions of St. Clair, Madison, Monroe, and Randolph counties are in the American Bottom. Its maximum width is about 9 miles (14 km) in the north, and it is about 2–3 miles in width throughout most of its southern extent.

Mississippi Flyway image

24 years ago, the Great Flood of 1993 hit major portions of the southern Bottom. 47,000 acres (190 km²) of land below Columbia, Illinois was inundated, destroying the town of Valmeyer. 

Watch: https://youtu.be/N5avsx-8xJo

The waters came within five feet of overtopping the East Saint Louis levee. If they had run over, they would have flooded 71,000 acres (290 km²) and destroyed this urban industrial area. More than nine feet of floodwater covered the town of Kaskaskia in 1993 after it overtopped the levee; only the spire of the Catholic church and roof of a nearby shrine rose far above the waters.

See: https://www.quora.com/Floods-and-Flooding-What-is-the-best-way-to-protect-cities-towns-and-villages-from-overflowing-river-banks

Like the Mississippians, Americans made massive changes in the floodplain; their development has reduced its ability to absorb floods. The destruction of wetlands and paving over of areas along all the major rivers has increased the severity of flooding over the decades, despite attempted engineering solutions for flood control, which in turn have exacerbated flooding.

Farming and Flooding

Pockets of humans around the world, from about 10,000–7000 years ago (8000–5000 BC), began to apply their growing brains to solve food supply issues. This has been classified as The Neolithic revolution. Agriculture forever changed the interaction between humans and the world around them. This was highly beneficial to their survival, but also has become such a science that the harmful effects can now be catalogued.

Genius of genetically engineered Maize!

Around 7000 years ago an incredibly important food stuff was developed. It was Maize. 
Image of Maize Development

Early farmers noticed a wild grass (Teosinte) originally growing in Central America. Recent research this century indicate the Balsas River Valley of south-central Mexico as the center of domestication. The culture is poorly understood but is believed to have developed during the Middle and Late Preclassic periods of Mesoamerican chronology, between 700 and 200 BC. The culture continued into the Classic period (c.250-650 AD) when it coexisted with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan. These farmers somehow interbred the grasses and created maize. Maize is now a staple diet for many citizens of the world, but only the people of the Americas knew of it for thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.

Hundreds of years later, now in North America,  one concentrated group of farmers centred their maize farming in, what we now call Cahokia; they had learned to grow maize so successfully they could support large communities.

‘Cahokia, situated north of the Rio Grande, was a huge collection of farmers packed cheek by jowl. It had few specialized craftworkers and no middle-class merchants. The total number was about 15,000 people. They were of the Mississippian culture, known as the Mound Builders. They lived around between 950 to 1250 AD. Most of the area has clayey soil that is hard to till and prone to floods. Cahokia was located next to the largest stretch of good farmland in the entire American Bottom. At its far edge, a forest of oak and hickory topped a line of bluffs. The area was little settled until as late as 600 A.D., when people trickled in and formed small villages, groups of a few hundred who planted gardens and boated up and down the Mississippi to other villages……..extract from ‘1491: The Americas before Columbus’.

Through their expert cultivation of maize they were able to create food surpluses and build concentrated settlements in the centuries after 600 CE. The Cahokia Mounds Site, which was built as the center attracted a rapid increase in population after 1000 CE. It is a six-square mile complex of large, man-made, earthen mounds rising from the flood plain. Despite using the local clay they engineered a method of building which supported the higher structures, working with water and clay to retain the mounds. In 1982, the Mound Site was designated by UNESCO as one of only eight World Heritage Sites in the United States……..but how much longer will such sites be preserved and protected?

President Trump has withdrawn from UNESCO’s activities: “UNESCO’s mission is to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information.” The White House gave a statement: “This decision was not taken lightly, and reflects US concerns with mounting arrears at UNESCO, the need for fundamental reform in the organisation, and continuing anti-Israel bias at UNESCO.”

Despite their brilliant engineering skills, leaving us these amazing mounds to study and admire, the Cahokian leaders also got too ambitious with their building activities.

“Cahokia’s rulers were setting themselves up for future trouble. By mining the forests upstream for firewood and floating the logs downriver to the city, they were removing ground cover and increasing the likelihood of catastrophic floods. When these came, as they later did, kings who gained their legitimacy from their claims to control the weather would face angry questioning from their subjects.”

Cahokia declined and was lost due to flooding.

Humans seem to carry this flaw of sticking too long with a ‘good thing’ ….never seeing our resources are finite, and that by robbing one area will inflict damage on another. We get out of balance so easily and do not take into account how this wonderful planet will tip off balance if we do not respect her. Sometimes she tips off balance without our help! As when mighty asteroids hit (see previous blog) but we cannot afford to take risks with the fragile balance we all need for our survival.

Understanding where we have gone wrong in our misuse of flood plains is only now dawning on us in retrospect. Now we must plan our urban sprawl with nature in mind. See http://www.baca.uk.com/research

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Mesoamerican “cradle of civilisation” and the Osmec head sculptures

66 million years ago a massive asteroid hit the Gulf of Mexico. This resulted in what we now call the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. Amazingly, much of the earth healed eventually, and new creatures evolved to replace those which had been killed, even the dinosaurs extinction left us with birds, descendants of those mighty creatures. 

Map of Chicxulub crater

For more current research see https://news.utexas.edu/2016/11/17/dino-killing-asteroid-made-rocks-behave-like-liquid

Then, 2.8 million years ago North and South America joined with an isthmus, impacting on living creatures to pass to and fro between these land masses.

In the last 14,000 years our ancestors have evolved and spread around the world. By 1800 only 1 billion humans populated the earth. There may have been more at times, but disasters may have befallen other human-like populations. Our current form has multiplied exponentially to a 2017 population of over 7 billion – and counting.

We humans began to make life easier by creating cooperative civilisations. Staying in one place and settling began when groups of humans created stability by finding an abundance of water and food through hunting, fishing and gathering resources including cereals.

Civilisations developed independently. Archaeologists discovering these lost kingdoms have designated these as ‘cradles of civilisation’. Where art had been given status by the civilisation and preserved in the right geological conditions for us to see thousands of years later, we have the luxury to marvel at the art and compare the findings. In this blog I am comparing the various civilisations and their sculpting of heads.

Best known ‘cradles of civilisations’ are briefly described as follows, with examples of sculpted heads:

The earliest we know of was the Natufian culture:

The Epipaleolithic Natufian culture (/nəˈtuːfiən/) existed from around 12,500 to 9,500 BC in the Levant, a region in the Eastern Mediterranean. The culture was unusual in that it supported a sedentary or semi-sedentary population even before the introduction of agriculture.

see my August blog on the Fertile Crescent, https://borderslynn.com/2017/08/14/destruction-of-the-garden/

Sumerians of Mesopotamia:

Sumer, the southernmost region of ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait). The name comes from Akkadian, the language of the north of Mesopotamia, and means “land of the civilized kings”. The Sumerians called themselves “the black headed people” and their land, in cuneiform script, was simply “the land” or “the land of the black headed people”. They dominated Mesopotamia for thousands of years.

Mesopotamians generally, and the Sumerians specifically, believed that civilization was the result of the gods’ triumph of order over chaos.

Whoever these people were, they had already moved from a hunter-gatherer society to an agrarian one prior to 5000 BCE – around 7 thousand years ago.

Image of Timeline (from https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/nichsara/near-eastern-art-part-ii)


Image of Votive Statues, from the Temple of Abu, Tell Asmar c.2500 BC, limestone, shell, and gypsum


Image of carved kings


Ancient India:

Ancient India is often called the Harappan Civilization because one of the ancient cities was called Harappa. Harappa was just one of 1500 cities in the Indus River Valley. Another well-known city is called Mohenjo-Daro. Historians estimate Ancient India to be the biggest of all four early civilizations. 

The Indo-Gangetic plains of NW India and Pakistan are one of the cradles of Old World Bronze-age civilizations. Here, the Indus civilization (~4.8 – 3.9 thousand years before the present (ka B.P.) formed one of the first urban civilizations, before abruptly declining. Prevailing theory in archaeology suggests that 3rd millennium urbanization was only possible in association with large perennial river systems to provide water for irrigation. In the case of the Indus civilization, the most extensive set of urban settlements occur in a region with no present day perennial rivers. 

Statue of a Priest in Mohenjo-Daro


Ancient Egypt

Continued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the Egyptians to settle around the Nile more permanently and to adopt a more sedentary lifestyle. By about 5500 BC, small tribes living in the Nile valley had developed into a series of inter-related cultures as far south as Sudan, demonstrating firm control of agriculture and animal husbandry, and identifiable by their pottery and personal items, such as combs, bracelets, and beads. The largest of these early cultures in upper (Southern) Egypt was the Badari, which probably originated in the Western Desert; it was known for its high quality ceramics, stone tools, and use of copper. The oldest known domesticated bovine in Africa are from Fayum dating to around 4400 BC. The Badari cultures was followed by the Naqada culture, which brought a number of technological improvements. As early as the first Naqada Period, Amratia, Egyptians imported obsidian from Ethiopia, used to shape blades and other objects from flakes. By 3300 BC, just before the first Egyptian dynasty, Egypt was divided into two kingdoms, known as Upper Egypt to the south, and Lower Egypt to the north.

Egyptian civilization begins during the second phase of the Naqda culture, known as the Gerzeh period, around 3500 BC and coalesces with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt around 3150 BC. Farming produced the vast majority of food; with increased food supplies, the populace adopted a much more sedentary lifestyle, and the larger settlements grew to cities of about 5,000 residents.

Bearded male figure Egypt, predynastic, Amratian-Gerzean (Naqda I-lib)

Kings of Egypt


Ancient China:

Chinese refer to the Yellow river as “the Mother River” and “the Cradle of Chinese Civilization”. That is because the Yellow River was the birthplace of ancient Chinese civilizations in the Xia (2100–1600 BC) and Shang (1600–1046 BC) eras — the most prosperous region in early Chinese history.

Image of Shang mask


Chavín of Peru:

Norte Chico has established an earlier estimate for complex societies in the Peruvian region by more than one thousand years. The Chavín culture, circa 900 BC, had long been considered the first civilization of the area.

They carved heads with tusks into fortress walls.

The Olmec of Mesoamerica:

Evidence of pre Olmec Mesoamericans has been traced to Soconuscoe dated to around the period when the Votive statues (above) were carved. the first civilisation known to us in Mesoamerica.

Around 3000 years ago, the ancient Olmec of Mesoamerica, located in Mexico were motivated to sculpt enormous heads out of volcanic rock. 

Deep in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, (now Veracruz and Tabasco) and out of an evolving small population centred in Soconusco, grew the first largest Mexican civilisation. They were the Olmecs.

This was Mesoamerica’s formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished in the area since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE, early Olmec culture had emerged, centered on the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz. 

They left us amazingly heavy and detailed head sculptures.

These heads (sometimes with torsos) were sculpted from from a single basalt boulder which in some cases were transported 100 km or more to their final destination, presumably using huge balsa river rafts wherever possible and log rollers on land. The principal source of this heavy stone was Cerro Cintepec in the Tuxtla Mountains. The heads were sculpted using hard hand-held stones and it is likely that they were originally painted using bright colour. (See https://www.ancient.eu/article/672/olmec-colossal-stone-heads/)

Image of Monument 4 from La Venta with comparative size of an adult and child. The monument weighs almost 20 tons.


These fascinating people were capable of great art.

The Olmec civilization was first defined through artifacts which collectors purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient America’s most striking.
And as if this exercise of carving huge heads and the engineering of moving their immense weight to chosen locations had become something to transmit to some future human population, a few thousand years later it happened again, but on the Pacific Island of Rapu Nui. 

The powerful image of head sculptures resonates with us today. Even if we can’t view them in situ, we can see from the photographed images, how they seem to strike some deep memory in our ancestral global knowledge. We feel it. We can’t articulate the meaning, but this great effort and artistic skill was, in my opinion, a message to humans then and now. They felt the urge to create iconic heads in overlapping periods of civilisations on different continents, isolated yet somehow connected. 

We should not minimise the bond of communication which transcends language and is deeply felt by humans who are open to the transmissions. For I am sure it is what makes most of us aspire to be guardians of this planet, rather than destroyers.

Rapa Nui

Map of island


By 1200 C.E, Polynesians settled on Rapa Nui (also known as “Easter Island” – named by the island’s first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday (5 April) in 1722, while searching for Davis or David’s island). The early Polynesian settlers also felt the urge to sculpt huge heads. These are the famous Moai, but no one can yet explain them. 

Rapu Nui was annexed by Chile in the late 19th century and now maintains an economy based largely on tourism. The Rapa Nui people currently make up 60% of Easter Island’s population and have a significant portion of their population residing in mainland Chile.

The Moai heads are carved from Tuff, which is an easily carved, compressed volcanic ash. The tuff quarries are located in an extinct volcano called Rano Raraku on the northeastern part of the island [Radford 2012]. The torsos of the heads have sunk into the ground over time, so that the dramatic sight of only heads is what most of us are familiar with (see http://www.eisp.org).

Image of Moai

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The seafaring Neanderthals and their descendants, the seafaring Pacific Islanders

We are learning far more about ourselves thanks to the Human Genome Project. Adding this avalanche of new findings to what has been collected by other branches of discovery since, for example, the Taung child skull found in South Africa by Raymond Dart, 1925, seem to be getting us closer to how branching migratory activity mingled small groups of our human ancestors.

We have used the term ‘Neanderthal’ (sometimes spelled with the ‘h’)  as a derogatory and humorous description of a non too bright character. But now we find we carry Neanderthal genes and they have great significance, indeed respect is due!

Some news I picked up at http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/10/modern-humans-lost-dna-when-they-left-africa-mating-neandertals-brought-some-back

“In a recent annual meeting of The American Society of Human Genetics, researchers announced that some “Neandertal” genetic variants inherited by modern humans outside of Africa are not peculiarly Neandertal genes, but represent the ancestral human condition. The work highlights just how much diversity was lost when people passed through a genetic bottleneck as they moved out of Africa. 

“They left many beneficial variants behind in Africa,” says evolutionary genomicist Tony Capra of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, who reported the results. “Interbreeding with Neandertals provided an opportunity to get back some of those variants, albeit with many potentially weakly deleterious Neandertal alleles as well.” 

His team found the ancient African variants when they scrutinized the genomes of more than 20,000 people in the 1000 Genomes Project and Vanderbilt’s BioVU data bank of electronic health records. They soon noticed a strange pattern: Stretches of chromosomes inherited from Neandertals also carried ancient alleles, or mutations, found in all the Africans they studied, including the Yoruba, Esan, and Mende peoples. The researchers found 47,261 of these single-base changes across the genomes of Europeans and 56,497 in Asians, Capra says. In Eurasians these alleles are only found next to Neandertal genes, suggesting all this DNA was inherited at the same time, when the ancestors of today’s Eurasians mated with Neandertals roughly 50,000 years ago.”

Which type of ancestor met with the Neanderthal is becoming traceable through the Genome research.

The Andamans are theorised to be a key stepping stone in a great coastal migration ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coastal_migration#/media/File%3AWorld_Map_of_Y-DNA_Haplogroups1.png) of humans from Africa via the Arabian peninsula, along the coastal regions of the Indian mainland and towards Southeast Asia, Japan and Oceania.
Haplogroup Map

Classification of peoples has been a historical process, just as names of nations, boundaries of countries, counties, towns, villages has been a method of differentiating one from another, from the outside in, very often. These perspectives have been drawn by those in a position of power to decide and write these terms into our ‘educational’ materials. The terms might be challenged by those viewings from the inside out, but it is rare there are changes made. Only when a nation seeks independence from a once greater power, may a nation choose its own name for example. But the name may still be chosen on behalf of the citizens, rather than by them.

Take the name Apache. The name Apache comes from a Zuni word meaning “our enemies”; their own names for themselves are Ndee, Inday, and Dine’é, which mean “the people” in their languages. Today most Apache people also use the name “Apache,” which is frequently spelled Abachi or Abaachi in their own orthographies. Spelling variants on these names include Apachi, Nde, Dine’, Dine’e, Tineh, Tinde, Chinde, Inde, Indé, Indee, and Nnee. 

Then we ask ourselves, what is a Zuni word? And the Internet answers with: “Most live in the Pueblo of Zuni on the Zuni River, a tributary of the Little Colorado River, in western New Mexico, United States. Zuni is 55 km (34 mi) south of Gallup, New Mexico. In addition to the reservation, the tribe owns trust lands in Catron County, New Mexico and Apache County, Arizona.” Obviously the tribes they called Apache were their enemies.

And then we ask how old this tribe is? And the answer comes “Archeologists believe Zuni history began well before 2500 B.C. when the tribe moved into the Southwest as big game hunters. Between 2500 B.C. and 700 A.D. the Zuni Indians made their first attempts at agriculture and hunted smaller game. Historians believe it was during this period they started making pottery and weaving baskets.”

And they came up with the word ‘Apache’ and it stuck.

So it was, in 1832, a French explorer, Dumont D’Urville classified the peoples of Oceania into four racial groups: Malaysians, Polynesians, Micronesians, and Melanesians. D’Urville’s model differed from that of Bory de Saint-Vincent in referring to ‘Melanesians’ rather than ‘Mélaniens.’ The concept of ‘race’ sprang out of early anthropology which is best consigned to the bin of ignorance, but labels are still used until we can throw off race related ignorance.  

Jonathan Friedlaender states, “The first settlers of Australia, New Guinea, and the large islands just to the east arrived between 50,000 and 30,000 years ago………” See my August 25th blog for more on that subject.

We have also noted earlier from the Genome Project, that, “In Eurasians these alleles are only found next to Neandertal genes, suggesting all this DNA was inherited at the same time, when the ancestors of today’s Eurasians mated with Neandertals roughly 50,000 years ago.”

There were certain health risks which evolved. One unpleasant example Is evidence that modern genital warts – otherwise known as the human papillomavirus (HPV) – were sexually transmitted to Homo sapiens after our ancestors slept with Neanderthals and Denisovans once they left Africa.

So it isn’t all good news about sleeping with cousins, it took is thousands of years to learn not to do that!

I’m first finding out about ‘Melanesia’. 

Most of the peoples in Melanesia have established independent countries, are admistered by France or have active independence movements (in the case of West Papua). Many have recently taken up the term ‘Melanesia’ as a source of identity and “empowerment.” Stephanie Lawson writes that the term “moved from a term of denigration to one of affirmation, providing a positive basis for contemporary subregional identity as well as a formal organisation”. For instance, the author Bernard Narokobi wrote about the “Melanesian Way” as a distinct form of culture that could empower the people of this region. The concept is also used in geopolitics. For instance, the Melanesian Spearhead Group preferential trade agreement is a regional trade treaty among Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.” Wikipedia.

Map image


The original inhabitants of the group of islands now named Melanesia were likely the ancestors of the present-day Papuan-speaking people. Migrating from Southeast Asia, they appear to have occupied these islands as far east as the main islands in the Solomon Islands, including Makira and possibly the smaller islands farther to the east.

They are known as the Lapita culture, and, like our ( https://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2011/08/29/how-neanderthal-are-you/) Neanderthals ancestors, were expert in seamanship and navigation, reaching out and finding islands separated from each other by hundreds of miles of empty ocean. Their descendants, the Polynesians, would populate islands from Hawaii to Easter Island.

Present evidence from fossils defines Neanderthals as evolving in Europe, separate from modern humans in Africa for more than 400,000 years. They are considered either a distinct species, Homo neanderthalensis, or more rarely as a subspecies of Homo sapiens (H. s. neanderthalensis). They will have been separated due to our constantly changing planet, and the search is on for other species of ancestor who may have evolved separately until meeting at some location.

Based on his genetic studies of the Denisova hominin, an ancient human species discovered in 2010, Svante Pääbo claims that ancient human ancestors of the Melanesians interbred in Asia with these humans. He has found that people of New Guinea share 4%–6% of their genome with the Denisovans, indicating this exchange. The Denisovans are considered cousin to the Neanderthals. Both groups are now understood to have migrated out of Africa, with the Neanderthals going into Europe, and the Denisovans heading east about 400,000 years ago. This is based on genetic evidence from a fossil found in Siberia. The evidence from Melanesia suggests their territory extended into south Asia, where ancestors of the Melanesians developed.

Another study suggests:

“Europeans have no hint of Denisovan ancestry, and people in China have a tiny amount – 0.1 percent, according to Bohlender’s calculations( Ryan Bohlender, a statistical geneticist from the University of Texas). But 2.74 percent of the DNA in people in Papua New Guinea comes from Neanderthals. (See  https://www.sciencealert.com/pacific-islanders-appear-to-be-carrying-the-dna-of-an-unknown-human-species)

Melanesians of some islands are one of the few non-European peoples, and the only dark-skinned group of people outside Australia, known to have blond hair. The blonde trait developed via the TYRP1 gene, and is not found in European blonds.

The mutation, which has no obvious advantages, likely arose by chance in one individual and drifted to a high frequency in the Solomon Islands because the original population was small, says Jonathan Friedlaender, an anthropologist emeritus at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who was not involved in the study. “This whole area seems to have been populated by very small groups of people making it across these stepping-stone islands, so you do have very dramatic effects in fluctuations of gene frequency.” See http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2012/05/origin-blond-afros-melanesia

Image of blond hair trait

Lapita Pottery identifier

When archaeologist began finding pottery remnants on the various islands they named them as Lapita. The term ‘Lapita’ was coined by archaeologists after mishearing a word in the local Haveke language, xapeta’a, which means ‘to dig a hole’ or ‘the place where one digs’, during the 1952 excavation in New Caledonia. The Lapita archaeological culture is named after the type site where it was first uncovered in the Foué peninsula on Grande Terre, the main island of New Caledonia. The excavation was carried out in 1952 by American archaeologists Edward W. Gifford and Richard Shulter Jr at ‘Site 13’. 

Their culture or tradition was prehistoric just as the Zuni Indians in the Americas (between 2500 B.C. and 700 A.D. ) and the island of Fiji was settled before or around 3500 to 1000 BC. Almost a parallel existence, and since no one knows exactly, maybe they were developing separately but from a split migration from some point in the past.

The Lapita pots were usually created by any materials that were accessible, as well as the techniques used to make such detailed designs. The low-fired earthenware pottery, often tempered with shell or sand, is typically decorated with a dentate (toothed) stamp. It has been theorized that these decorations may have been transferred to or from less hardy mediums such as tapa (bark cloth), mats or tattoos. Undecorated “plain-ware” pottery is an important part of the Lapita cultural complex, which also includes ground-stone adzes and shell artefacts, and flaked-stone tools of obsidian, chert and other available rock, as well as the remainders of breakers, cooking pots, and bowls.

Image of pottery (see http://www.messagetoeagle.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/lapitafirstpeople2.jpg)

The great arc of islands located north and east of Australia and south of the Equator is called Melanesia (from the Greek words melas, “black,” and nēsos, “island”) for the predominantly dark-skinned peoples of New Guinea island, the Bismarck Archipelago, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu (the New Hebrides), New Caledonia, and Fiji.

The study found a high rate of genetic differentiation and diversity among the groups living within the Melanesian islands, with the peoples distinguished by island, language, topography, and geography among the islands. Such diversity developed over their tens of thousands of years of settlement before the Polynesian ancestors ever arrived at the islands. For instance, populations developed differently along the coasts than in more isolated valleys.

In the archaeological record there are well-defined traces of this expansion which allow the path it took to be followed and dated with some certainty. 

It is thought that by roughly 1400 BC, “Lapita Peoples”, appeared in the Bismarck Archipelago of north-west Melanesia. This culture is seen as having adapted and evolved through time and space since its emergence “Out of Taiwan”. They had given up rice production, for instance, after encountering and adapting to breadfruit in the Bird’s Head area of New Guinea. In the end, the most eastern site for Lapita archaeological remains recovered so far has been through work on the archaeology in Samoa. The site is at Mulifanua on Upolu. The Mulifanua site, where 4,288 pottery shards have been found and studied, has a “true” age of c. 1000 BC based on C14 dating. 

A 2010 study places the beginning of the human archaeological sequences of Polynesia in Tonga at 900 B.C., the small differences in dates with Samoa being due to differences in radiocarbon dating technologies between 1989 and 2010, the Tongan site apparently predating the Samoan site by some few decades in real time.

Within a mere three or four centuries between about 1300 and 900 BC, the Lapita archaeological culture spread 6,000 kilometres further to the east from the Bismarck Archipelago, until it reached as far as Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. The area of Tonga, Fiji, and Samoa served as a gateway into the rest of the Pacific region known as Polynesia. Ancient Tongan mythologies recorded by early European explorers report the islands of ‘Ata and Tongatapu as the first islands being hauled to the surface from the deep ocean by Maui.’

Solomon Islands

Five of the Solomon Islands have disappeared into the Pacific Ocean due to rising seas and erosion, in what Australian researchers say is the first major effect of climate change on the coastlines and people of the Pacific.

The Solomon Islands archipelago has seen annual sea levels rise as much as 0.4 inches, according to research published in Environmental Research Letters. Using aerial footage, radiocarbon dating of trees and traditional knowledge, researchers discovered that five tiny islands that existed in 1947 had completely disappeared by 2014.

On top of the uninhabited, submerged islands—which range in size from 2.5 to 12.4 acres—six other islands have seen chunks of land washed into the sea, forcing entire villages on two of them to be relocated. One of the islands affected was Nuatambu, which lost half its habitable area since 2011, including 11 houses.

The Solomon Islands is a nation made up of hundreds of islands, with a population of about 640,000 people.

Tectonic Background

The M=8.1 earthquake that occurred in the Solomon Islands on April 1, 2007 (UTC), was located along the Solomon Islands subduction zone, part of the Pacific “Ring of Fire”. A subduction zone is a type of plate tectonic boundary where one plate is pulled (subducted) beneath another plate. For most subduction zones that make up the western half of the Ring of Fire, the Pacific plate is being subducted beneath local plates. In this case, however, the Pacific plate is the overriding or upper plate. There are three plates being subducted along the Solomon Islands subduction zone: the Solomon Sea plate, the Woodlark plate, and the Australian plate (see figure below). A spreading center separates the Woodlark and Australian plates. More detailed information on the plate tectonics of this region can be found in Tregoning and others (1998) and Bird (2003). See  https://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/tsunami/solomon07/index.html

And so humans continue to struggle for survival against difficult odds.  

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Fragility of human existence: following the migration of hominins

The first humans to arrive in the Americas out of Africa would have been faced with crossing the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the long migration through Asia to Beringia, or maybe through hops over Pacific islands. The migration of our ancestors was due to their need to find less hostile environments, just as thousands have to migrate today.

We know the formation of islands and continents took place over thousands of years. We also know, as happens now, islands rise, then become submerged, then others rise, due to volcanic activity, tectonic movements beneath the oceans. Landmasses of continents expand and reduce. Some become more fertile, others become inhospitable. The climate  changes because of so many likely events such as El Niño – see http://www.mawsweather.com/elnino.html and unexpected events such as the terrible earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan.

Could the land now submerged have been the route for migrant humans? Certainly there is evidence that humans arrived in the Americas thousands of years before Columbus. Or did their route always hug coastlines? 

Only today we find the media carry stories with this headline ‘9.7 Million-Year-Old Teeth Found in Germany Belong to Hominin Only Known To Have Existed in Africa 4 Million Years Later’. Such amazing finds are challenging long standing theories around the origin of man focussing on the Out of Africa evidence.  Nothing is ever fact, only conjecture. A ‘proof’ must be challenged as technology becomes more sophisticated to refine the process of challenge.

We now know the climate suffered catastrophic collapse (http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/06/crippled-atlantic-currents-triggered-ice-age-climate-change) “The last ice age wasn’t one long big chill. Dozens of times temperatures abruptly rose or fell, causing all manner of ecological change. Mysteriously, ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica show that these sudden shifts—which occurred every 1500 years or so—were out of sync in the two hemispheres: When it got cold in the north, it grew warm in the south, and vice versa. Now, scientists have implicated the culprit behind those seesaws—changes to a conveyor belt of ocean currents known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC).”

See also: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shutdown_of_thermohaline_circulation

The turning point as the warm water of the Gulf Stream (named and charted by Benjamin Franklin whilst he was stationed in England in 1776) is pushed down by the cold waters north of Scotland and the Global Conveyor begins its deeper journey of cold water back around the oceans. In the 16th to 18th centuries,  Spanish sailors who became aware of the fast river of current which is the Gulf Stream, used it to secretly gain advantage over other nations ships. They found they could travel on the current from the Americas back home at 100 miles per day (5.6 mph).

Image of AMOC

Image of Global Conveyor


We do need to accept that we are only building a jigsaw puzzle of evidence and applying theories to the known evidence. As we seek to understand our origins, we hope to understand our fragile existence and to learn to minimise human harm in the future based on Anthropocene evidence of our trail of destruction.

In recent years the dreadful earthquake and massive tsunami over Japan 11 March 2011 (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-35638091) has led to years of debris crossing from Japan to Canada and the USA. Obviously people are sharing tragic stories ever since the event occurred, but the flow of debris is an opportunity to learn more about currents, winds and Pacific ocean flow. Looking at the graphic below one can imagine the natural, yet seemingly impossible, direction from east to west which might cause a human presence to cross this vastness somehow in the ancient past.

NOAA graphic:


Such devastation to humankind will have occurred many times as the evolving hominins attempted to migrate to more stable areas of land. When groups were nearly made extinct they had to survive through inbreeding until they met other hominins. This pattern of inbreeding can be found amongst ancient Mesoamericans who would appear to have survived near extinction events. But more of that in future blogs.

This time I have gathered information about the Pacific which remains vast and hugely interesting on so many levels.

The Pacific is 161.8 million km². It was formed out of the Panthalassa, (Old Pacific or Paleo-Pacific or Proto-Pacific) from its centre in the Mesozoic to the present.

Graphic of Panthalassa:


During the Paleozoic—Mesozoic transition c. 250 Ma it occupied almost 70% of Earth’s surface. Its ocean-floor has completely disappeared because of the continuous subduction along the continental margins on its circumference.

Graphic of submerged continents:


The Pacific and Atlantic were joined until as recently as 2.8 million years. A new study has shown the Isthmus of Panama formed around 2.8 million years ago splitting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

Beneath the Pacific is the largest tectonic plate, and like all tectonic plates it is continuously moving, north-west at a speed of 56–102 mm (2.2–4.0 in)/year. It is 103 million square kilometres (40,000,000 sq mi).

Graphic of Pacific tectonic plate from http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/7/e1600022.full


The movement resulted in islands such as Baja California (also home to numerous islands off both of its shores. The westernmost point in Mexico, the Guadalupe Island, is part of Baja California. The Coronado, Todos Santos and Cedros Islands are also on the Pacific Shore. On the Gulf of California, the biggest island is the Angel de la Guarda, separated from the peninsula by the deep and narrow Canal de Ballenas. 

Other famous islands Hawaii ( the island of Oahu, about 75 miles southeast of Kauai, was formed about 3.4 million years ago. The island has two inactive volcanoes, Waianae and Koolau. Waianae is about 2.75 million years old, while Koolau is about 2.5 million years old. In areas where the plates come together, sometimes volcanoes will form. Volcanoes can also form in the middle of a plate, where magma rises upward until it erupts on the seafloor, at what is called a “hot spot.” The Hawaiian Islands were formed by such a hot spot occurring in the middle of the Pacific Plate.

The Pacific Plate is almost entirely oceanic crust, but it contains some continental crust in New Zealand, Baja California, and coastal California.

The early human migration may have involved Asian routes via islands such as the Philippines. The Pacific, Australian and Indian plate have continued to push inward to Asia thus creating 7, 107 islands of the now, Philippines. This is an example of possible island hopping routes which could have been made by humans when opportunities arose.

The earliest known human remains in the Philippines are the fossilised remains discovered in 2007 in the Callao Caves in Cagayan. The 67,000-year-old find predates the 47,000-year-old Tabon Man, which was until then the earliest known set of human remains in the archipelago. The find consisted of a single 61 millimeter metatarsal which, when dated using uranium series ablation, was found to be its current age. If definitively proven to be remains of Homo sapiens, it would also be one of the oldest human remains in the Asia-Pacific. 

The Indo-Australian plate lies south of the Eurasian and the Philippine Seaplates. It is generally oceanic, being submerged by Indian and Pacific Oceans, but it holds two gigantic land masses – the island continent of Australia and Indian subcontinent. Recent researches, however, show that these two land masses are moving independently of each other, thus, may actually be parts of separate plates.

(For animation for the Philippine formation see http://www.s1expeditions.com/2013/08/094-philippinegis.html)

The Philippine Sea plate is east of the Eurasian plate. It is the bedrock of the major islands of the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, and the Marianas. 

Philippine formation graphics


The territory of the Philippines is composed of many island arcs formed by several incidents of subduction. The island arcs are collectively called Philippines island arc system. Each major Philippine island had a complex natural history. 

With the exception of Palawan, Mindoro and Romblon, most of the Philippine islands are considered to have been parts of island arcs formed at the southern edge of the Philippine Sea plate millions of years ago. As part of the Philippine Sea plate, the islands moved northward as the plate rotated clockwise. These roving islands, known as the Philippine Mobile Belt, eventually collided with the Sundaland. The collision resulted, among others, in a series of subductions around Philippine archipelago. (http://thehistoryofthephilippines.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/formation-of-philippine-islands.html

Studies of Chinese populations show that 97.4% of their genetic make-up is from ancestral modern humans from Africa, with the rest coming from extinct forms such as Neanderthals and Denisovans.

The Zhirendong hominins, for instance, could represent an exodus of early modern humans from Africa between 120,000 and 80,000 years ago. Instead of remaining in the Levant in the Middle East, as was thought previously, these people could have expanded into east Asia, says Michael Petraglia, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford, UK.

There are many mysteries which we may never solve, but we are trying. For example, there are ancient scripts in the form of pictograms that suggest Chinese explorers may have discovered America long before Europeans arrived there. These were located at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The epigraph researcher John Ruskamp photographed and enhanced symbols which he found etched into rock

So many researchers are considering the submerged continent of Sundaland as the possible home of Eastern mankind, and therefore the route from Asia to the Americas before Sundaland sank beneath the waves. ( see the above graphic of the Global Conveyor – it passes through the area which was Sundaland, known for its warm climate when Sundaland was a likely home to early hominins).

Graphic showing Sundaland location:


Skulls found in the Upper Cave at Choukoutien / Zhougoudian, the “Peking Man” cave represent two of the “Asiatic” populations of Eastern Asia at the time and are derived from Sundaland / Lemuria.

First migrations along these lines started out of Africa about 100000 years ago. The older population was mostly wiped out but then a newer population came in, with both males and females, but the males also took mates of surviving females out of the older population. We know this because of the peculiar mismatch in dates between Y-DNA and mtDNA strains here.

See also : http://frontiers-of-anthropology.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/sundaland-home-of-eastern-mankind.html
Human migrations

Previously the human migrations was believed to take the direction Southward from East Asian mainland to Taiwan and to the rest of Maritime Southeast Asia. However recent findings pointing to the submerged Sundaland as the probable cradle of Asian population, thus generated the “Out of Sundaland” theory. (Stephen Oppenheimer, an Oxford scientist proposed the “Out of Sundaland” theory.

In a study from Leeds University and published in Molecular Biology and Evolution, the research examined mitochondrial DNA lineages revealing humans have been evolving within Islands of Southeast Asia for a longer period than previously believed. Population dispersals occurred at the same time as sea levels rose, which may have resulted in migrations from the Philippine Islands to as far north as Taiwan within the last 10,000 years. 

The population migrations were most likely to have been driven by climate change – the effects of the drowning of a huge ancient continent Sundaland. This happened during the period 15,000 to 7,000 years ago following the last Ice Age. The rising sea levels in three massive pulses caused flooding and the submergence of the Sunda Continent, creating the Java and South China Seas and the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia and the Philippines today.

The new findings from Human Genome Organisation also shows that Asia was populated primarily through a single migration event from the south. They found genetic similarities between populations throughout Asia and an increase in genetic diversity from northern to southern latitudes. Although the Chinese population is very large, it has less variation than the smaller number of individuals living in Southeast Asia, because the Chinese expansion occurred very recently, following the development of rice agriculture — within only the last 10,000 years.

Stephen Oppenheimer located the origin of the Austronesian in Sundaland and its upper regions. Genetic research reported in 2008 indicates that the islands which are the remnants of Sundaland were likely populated as early as 50,000 years ago, contrary to a previous hypothesis that they were populated as late as 5,000 years ago from Taiwan.

When we consider examples of catastrophic events we can imagine that if humans were populating the Americas at the time of one of these events, they would be wiped out. We can learn from near extinction events. What happened in the past contributes to our understanding of the future.  

Here is an example from http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/7/e1600022.full

Recent research has revealed there was a catastrophic release of fresh water from a vast South American lake at the end of the last Ice Age. It was significant enough to change circulation in the Pacific Ocean, according to new research co-authored by a PhD student from the University of Bristol.

“This study is important because we are currently concerned about the volumes of fresh water entering the oceans from the melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and this gives us an indication of the likely effects,” the study’s lead author, Professor Neil Glasser from Aberystwyth University said.

The lake was about one third the size of Wales, and it drained several times between 13,000 and 8,000 years ago, with devastating consequences. It was held back by a dam formed by a large ice sheet, the lake drained rapidly as the ice sheet shrank in size.

At its high point the lake extended over 7,400km2, held 1500km3 of water and occupied a basin which now contains Lago General Carrera in Chile (see the magnificent marble caverns at http://www.kuriositas.com/2011/05/marble-cathedral-of-general-carrera.html) and Lago Buenos Aires in Argentina

Professor Glasser said: “This was a massive lake. When it drained, it released around 1150km3 of fresh water from the melting glaciers into the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – equivalent to around 600 million Olympic-sized swimming pools. This had a considerable impact on the Pacific Ocean circulation and regional climate at the time.

“Much of the freshwater drained into the sea near Golfo Peñas, south of the Chilean capital Santiago. (See http://navy.memorieshop.com/Constellation/Strait-Of-Magellan/Raper/index.html)

Image of lighthouse at Gulf of Peñas:


The fresh water would have sat on top of the salt water as it spread out so it affected the regional ocean currents. The event affected the whole of southern South America and would have led to lower rainfall in winter and cooler ocean and air temperatures around Cape Horn, with the effects felt as far east as the Falkland Islands.”

The study, which applied different techniques to investigate the size of the former lake and how it drained, was undertaken by an international team of scientists, including Max Holloway, a PhD student in Bristol’s School of Geographical Sciences.

Whether the idea of a catastrophic event is one close to home, or one that might take out 99 percent of life on this planet, it is felt emotionally by humans as we must have ancestral memory of the fear, loss and devastation. May we keep learning and understanding all we can about this wonderful planet and treasure it in our daily lives.

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Graecopithecus to the Americas

Let us go back to pre-human existence, in fact to the Jurassic (201–145 Ma) when Pangaea began to break up into two continents, Gondwana and Laurasia, marking the beginning of the separation of Scotland and North America. Sea levels rose, as Britain and Ireland drifted on the Eurasian Plate to between 30° and 40° north. Over thousands of years major forces reshape our planet and evidence of human remains are often destroyed.

Image of Jurassic Period

The oldest remains were uncovered in May of this year, said to be 7.175 million years old. These were found not in Africa, but Pyrgos, Vassilissis, Greece (today in metropolitan Athens) as given the name ‘Graecopithecus freybergi’ (El Graeco). The study author Madelaine Böhme says they do not doubt the presence of early hominins in Africa, “but the oldest potential hominin has been found in Greece and Bulgaria. That is the fact we present.”

Artist’s impression of Graecopithecus

We cannot fix any archaeological find as definitive evidence of our origins, nor can we begin to explain the migratory paths and genetic changes that led to the diversity of human beings. But numerous sciences are sharing data and pulling together more solid evidence as technological advances aid their studies.

We find great controversy about the origins of the humans who were living in the Americas thousands of years before the Europeans arrived with their devastating impact.

The USA continues to teach the ‘Bering Strait’ theory of how early paleoindians arrived in the Americas a mere 13000 years ago. Yes, the continent has oceans between it and Africa. So logic tells us to look at the end of the last glacial age.

The Siberia to Alaska land bridge existed during the last glacial period. Here enough of the earth’s water became frozen in the great ice sheets covering Alaska and Europe to cause a drop in sea levels. For thousands of years the sea floors of many interglacial shallow seas were exposed, including those of the Bering Strait, the Chukchi Sea to the north, and the Bering Sea to the south. Other land bridges around the world have emerged and disappeared in the same way. As you will note in my previous piece, mainland Australia was linked to both New Guinea and Tasmania. 

Image of Beringia


The term Beringia was coined by the Swedish botanist Eric Hultén in 1937. During the ice ages, Beringia, like most of Siberia and all of North and Northeast China, was not glaciated because snowfall was very light. It was a grassland steppe, including the land bridge, that stretched for hundreds of kilometres into the continents on either side.

It is believed that a small human population of at most a few thousand arrived in Beringia from eastern Siberia during the Last Glacial Maximum before expanding into the settlement of the Americas sometime after 16,500 years ago during the Late Glacial Maximum as the American glaciers blocking the way southward melted, but before the bridge was covered by the sea about 11,000 years BP. (BP Before Present = 1950)

Children in US Schools are taught the first people to inhabit the Americas arrived via the Bering Strait. This is the most popular theory, but is being challenged in light of recent evidence.

Before European colonization, Beringia was inhabited by the Yupik peoples on both sides of the straits. This culture remains in the region today along with others. In 2012, the governments of Russia and the United States announced a plan to formally establish “a transboundary area of shared Beringian heritage”. Among other things this agreement would establish close ties between the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and the Cape Krusenstern National Monument in the United States and the planned Beringia National Park in Russia.

Native American Indians are convinced the Bering Strait theory has been disproved. They have held beliefs which they will not give up. For example:

Montana’s Blackfoot tradition holds that the first Indians lived on the other side of the ocean, but their creator decided to take them to a better place. “So he brought them over the ice to the far north,” the account reads.

The Hopi people of Arizona say their ancestors had to travel through three worlds, finally crossing the ocean eastward to a new and final new world. And Oklahoma’s Tuskagee people believe the “Great Spirit” chose them to be the first people to live on the earth.

Stories handed down over millennia cannot be ignored. There is often truth in such ancient tales. So many Native Americans are highly sceptical of archaeologists and other scientists, mostly white, purporting to have found evidence which supports the Bering Strait theory.

I have my doubts about the Bering Strait ‘evidence’ too. From a wide range of very recent and more accurate data being produced almost monthly this year, this Bering Strait theory will surely be consigned to the bin one day.

We, as human beings, all have the right to an opinion of where our origins derive. We can intuit, imagine, sense and consider whatever information we are drawn to and add that to our personal opinion.

I have spent my life wondering, as I’m sure most of us do as to how and why our species should survive when so many extinctions have happened during fierce environmental events over millennia.

Concepts of multiple millions of years ago really boggle my brain! As continents formed through these thousands of years whilst extreme events of astounding size and scope took place; that story as it has been told so far, does seem convincing. It also appeals to my imagination.

The relatively short period humans have traversed the planet has resulted in them developing methods of explaining how we came to exist and how we have been close to extinction many times as the earth constantly formed, reformed under continuing extreme events.

Debate, even intense argument has taken place between archaeologists and other developing sciences, as they all search for a way of increasing the certainty of defining our human origins and human development.

Since the sixteenth century, the origins of Native Americans have been an intellectual puzzle.

I have taken extracts from the book, 1491, it is enlightening as it points me to the human documented history of the period before Europeans arrived in the Americas. I would recommend this book as riveting reading for anyone interested. It argues against the Bering Strait theory most convincingly.

I have also dipped into areas of the Internet to help me gain more recent knowledge since the book was written.

Image of book 1491


First we must consider the notion that early inhabitants of the Americas could have hunted, even over hunted and caused the extinction of massive animals such as the one below. This idea was also attributed to the actions of early aborigine in Australia. Logic and further recent evidence suggests the women gathered the main diet and any meat acquired by the hunters was a luxury. 

Researchers are constantly trying to explore all avenues to understand how the emergence of Pleistocene hominins encompassed the rise of traits such as increased body size, reduced gut size, higher brain capacity and extended life spans, all of which anthropologists have traditionally associated to a shift towards high quality food sources such as meat. Increased amounts of lipids and proteins are presumably necessary to make these changes possible…………..Taking a look into the food sources available to early humans, no single food simultaneously fulfils both requirements. The richest dietary source of preformed AA and DHA regularly available to hominins through hunting or scavenging was possibly ruminant brain that complemented with bone marrow possibly satisfied both requirements. Evidence for fish consumption in early humans sites suggests that, fish became a food source rich in brain selective nutrients around 2 Ma. Aquatic food sources as well as ruminant brain would supply amounts of DHA that far exceed the daily intake recommended (100mg) for a normal brain development in modern humans …….https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465628/)

Remains of Megafauna (very big animals) in North America have been found, for example the daeodon is worthy of a healthy dose of fear. They were enormous hulking towers of brawny pig that lived around 20 million years ago in North America. They could grow to be six feet high at the shoulder and weigh thousands of pounds. Fossilized remains of their teeth suggest that they were omnivorous, dining both on animals (some as large as modern-day cows) and plants. It’s telling of their dominance of the food web that they belong to a family of animals nicknamed “hell pig” and “terminator pig.”

If humans had to fend against megafauna – even consider trapping, killing and eating them, this would have been a daunting task.

Searching for the earliest remains of hominids is producing results which challenge the long standing theory of ‘Sahelanthropus’ from Chad. This year we have a find in Greece and Morocco, both dated as much older than Sahelanthropus. As mentioned earlier, the 2017 ‘Graecopithecus’ was discovered in Greece, by an international research team headed by Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen and Professor Nikolai Spassov from the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. These remains are now considered several hundred thousand years older than the oldest potential pre-human from Africa, the six to seven million year old Sahelanthropus from Chad. This would impact on the longstanding conviction that the split of the human lineage occurred not — as customarily assumed — in Africa; rather we might have to revise our understanding that lineage took place in the Eastern Mediterranean. But this will be debated, no doubt, and argued over for many years to come.

So we might also have to revise the time period and direction from whence humans first migrated to the Americas.

Archaeological discoveries in South America in the 1980s led to a revision in the timeline of the Bering Strait Theory, throwing the whole theory into doubt. This theory has been taught to all school children in America for decades. But the dogmatic insistence on a single passageway in a certain time period was also being challenged on many other fronts, despite a strong resistance by authorities to consider new findings.

In almost every case, recent research of Indian societies have been revealed to be older, grander, and more complex than was thought possible even twenty years ago. Archaeologists not only have pushed back the date for humanity’s entrance into the Americas, they have learned that the first large-scale societies grew up earlier than had been believed—almost two thousand years earlier, and in a different part of the hemisphere. And even those societies that had seemed best understood, like the Maya, have been placed in new contexts on the basis of new information.

Contact with Indians caused Europeans considerably more consternation. Columbus went to his grave convinced that he had landed on the shores of Asia, near India. The inhabitants of this previously unseen land were therefore Asians—hence the unfortunate name “Indians.”

A Smithsonian anthropologist, from 1904 to 1941, Aleš Hrdlička, who regarded himself as the conscience of physical anthropology and made it his business to set boundaries would thoroughly discredit all purported findings of ancient Indians. So much so that a later director of the Bureau of American Ethnology admitted that for decades it was a career-killer for an archaeologist to claim to have “discovered indications of a respectable antiquity for the Indian.”

In the village of Clovis, New Mexico, near the state border with Texas, a 19 year old young man named Whiteman who was part Indian, was fascinated by Indian lore. He had heard about farmers finding ancient bones in Folsom. He was hoping to find something in the dried up river bed of Blackwater Draw. During the Pleistocene era it served as a wide, shallow regional drainage channel, a kind of long, slow-moving lake. As the Ice Ages ended, Blackwater Draw slowly dried up. The continuous flow of water turned into isolated ponds. Game animals congregated around the water, and hunters followed them there.

In 1932, Whiteman made contact with Edgar B. Howard, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, who visited Blackwater Draw and was to work on the site for the next four years. He and a team of assistants peeled away the geological layers, and found Blackwater Draw had hosted not one, but two ancient societies. One had left relics just like those at Folsom. Below the dirt strata with these objects, though, was a layer of quite different artifacts: bigger, thicker, and not as beautifully made. This second, earlier culture became known as the Clovis culture. He made his findings known at the Academy of Natural Sciences, in Philadelphia, inviting four hundred scientists to an international symposium. They travelled from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The symposium featured a full-scale reproduction, fifteen feet wide and thirty-four feet long, complete with actual artifacts and bones, of a particularly profitable section of Howard’s excavation. (Whiteman was not invited; he died in Clovis in 2003 at the age of ninety-one.)

The Clovis finds were without skeletons, so evidence of the American Indians ancient history was not linked to the artefacts according to the authoritative 68 year old Aleš Hrdlička of the Smithsonian Institute.

Image of “Clovis point”


Clovis (left) and Folsom points (shown to scale; fluting at bases)

Clovis culture had a distinctive set of tools: scrapers, spear-straighteners, hatchetlike choppers, crescent-moon-shaped objects whose function remains unknown. Its hallmark was the “Clovis point,” a four-inch spearhead with a slightly cut-in, concave tail; in silhouette, the points somewhat resemble those goldfish-shaped cocktail crackers.Folsom points, by contrast, are smaller and finer—perhaps two inches long and an eighth of an inch thick—and usually have a less prominent tail. Both types have wide, shallow grooves or channels called “flutes” cut into the two faces of the head. The user apparently laid the tip of the spear shaft in the flute and twisted hide or sinew repeatedly around the assembly to hold it together. When the point broke, inevitable with stone tools, the head could be loosened and slid forward on the shaft, letting the user chip a new point. A paleo-Indian innovation, this type of fluting exists only in the Americas.

With Blackwater Draw as a pattern, scientists knew exactly what to look for. During the next few decades, they discovered more than eighty large paleo-Indian sites throughout the United States, Mexico, and southern Canada. All of them had either Folsom or Clovis points,  which convinced many archaeologists that the Clovis people, the earlier of the two, must have been the original Americans. (Excerpt from 1491).

The Megafauna of Blackwater Draw must have been something to behold. (For a list of Blackwater Draw Fauna see https://www.utep.edu/leb/pleistnm/sites/blackwaterloc1.htm)

One on the  list is the Glyptodon

Image of Glyptodon



A species of Glyptodon on display at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Credit: Copyright AMNH | D. Finnin. Until the end of the last ice age, American cheetahs, enormous armadillolike creatures and giant sloths called North America home. But it’s long puzzled scientists why these animals and other megafauna — creatures heavier than 100 lbs. (45 kilograms) — went extinct about 10,000 years ago. See artist’s impressions of 10 Megafauna at https://www.livescience.com/13670-25-amazing-ancient-beasts-dinosaurs-reptiles.html

In a recent fossil find in Madagascar, researchers suspect a deadly algae poisoned dinosaurs – and where all dried up water beds contain fossils of mass deaths of megafauna, then it is possible the water was contaminated with harmful algal blooms, which can develop repeatedly in the same place in late summer. See http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/08/did-tiny-algae-fell-mighty-dinosaurs?utm_campaign=news_daily_2017-08-29&et_rid=330717162&et_cid=1517895

Seeking explanations of extinction of megafauna other than over hunting seems logical to me, given the possibility early humans might recognise toxic water and not use it, especially if one of the tribe had died from tasting it before the others consumed it.

In 2014, some dramatic, ancient DNA, was extracted from the remains of a 1-year-old boy who died in what is now Montana more than 12,000 years ago.

That’s the only human skeleton known from a brief but prolific culture in the Americas called Clovis.
“Clovis is what we like to refer to as an ‘archaeological complex,’ ” says Michael Waters, an archaeologist at Texas A&M University. That complex is defined by characteristic tools, he says.

The Clovis artifacts were common for about 400 years, starting about 13,000 years ago. But at this point, there is only one set of human remains associated with those sorts of tools: that of the baby from Montana.”So this genetic study actually provides us with a look at who these people were,” Waters says.The most obvious conclusion from the study is that the Clovis people who lived on the Anzick site in Montana were genetically very much like Native Americans throughout the Western Hemisphere.”The Anzick family is directly ancestral to so many peoples in the Americas,” says Eske Willerslev, from the University of Copenhagen. “That’s astonishing!”

The artifacts from this culture are found from Washington state to Florida and many places in between. But the culture also disappeared suddenly, around 12,600 years ago. Waters doesn’t find all of that so mysterious.”People change all the time and cultures change all the time and technologies change,” Waters says. “And they change because people are adapting to new environments and changes in climate.”

“And at the end of the Clovis time period, 12,600 years ago, when this child was buried, the climate was changing. It was the beginning of the Younger Dryas cold snap. This is when you start seeing a lot of cultural differentiation taking place,” Waters says.

The DNA evidence now makes clear that the people who used Clovis tools lived on, even though they left their old technology behind. But the Clovis genes give only a broad-brush view of how and when migrations through the Americas took place.

“We have no idea exactly where the U.S. fits in this pattern,” Willerslev says. “And to be completely honest, we have no idea how they actually moved through time, these different groups throughout the continent. In order to answer that question there’s only one way to go, and that is sequencing more genomes from ancient remains.”

That will require, among other things, cooperation with native peoples.

In the case of the Clovis child, the archaeologists worked closely with modern tribes to make sure the scientists were treating the remains appropriately. The Clovis infant is to be reburied later this year, on the property where he was unearthed.(from http://www.npr.org/2014/02/13/276021092/ancient-dna-ties-native-americans-from-two-continents-to-clovis)  

Many archaeologists believe Clovis sites to be the oldest in the Americas but that honour may go to the Pedra Furada human remains and hearths, a site in Brazil that precedes the Clovis culture and other similar sites by 19,000 to 30,000 years. (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clovis_culture)

Looking  now at the present day Native American Indians of New Mexico (See http://www.native-languages.org/nmexico.htm)


And consider the proximity of Clovis


An example of one indigenous tribe is the Apache see – http://www.crystalinks.com/apache.html
The Apaches formerly ranged over southeastern Arizona and north-western Mexico. The chief divisions of the Apaches were the Arivaipa, Chiricahua, Coyotero, Faraone Gileno, Llanero, Mescalero, Mimbreno, Mogollon, Naisha, Tchikun and Tchishi. They were a powerful and warlike tribe, constantly at enmity with the whites. The final surrender of the tribe took place in 1886, when the Chiricahuas, the division involved, were deported to Florida and Alabama, where they underwent military imprisonment. The U.S. Army, in their various confrontations, found them to be fierce warriors and skillful strategists. The Apaches are now in reservations in Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma, and number between 5000 and 6000.


As a child in Britain, the Apache were the tribe name seemingly most commonly referred to in the ‘Cowboys and Indians’ action movies, which, in my ignorance of the real life situation, I was thrilled to watch. I grew up imagining I was a squaw, a heroic squaw, and would hide in the bushes in my garden and aim my pathetically useless bow and arrow at passers by – made by me from elderberry tree branches.

Nowadays we are all familiar with the brutal and harsh treatment all indigenous folk endure, even to the present day, whilst they attempt to protect their homeland, shrinking as it always does from industrial monstrous machinery which destroys everything in its path for the sake of perceived corporate financial profit.

After the Chiricahuan Apache were deported east to Florida in 1886, San Carlos became the reservation for various other relocated Apachean-speaking groups. These included the Pinal Coyotero of the northern Gila River area, the former San Carlos Apache bands Aravaipa (also Arivaipa or Tsee Zhinnee), Pinaleño (also Pinal Apache or Tiis Ebah Nnee), Apache Peaks (also called Bichi Lehe Nnee), and San Carlos proper (also Tiis Zhaazhe Bikoh or ′Small Cottonwood Canyon People′), the former Canyon Creek, Carrizo Creek and Cibecue bands of the Cibecue Apache.

The San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, in southeastern Arizona, United States, was established in 1872 as a reservation for the Chiricahua Apache tribe as well as surrounding Yavapai and Apache bands forcibly removed from their original homelands under a strategy devised by General Crook of using an Apache to catch an Apache. Also known as “Hell’s Forty Acres” under United States occupation because of deplorable health and environmental conditions.


Image of Guard House in San Carlos, Arizona circa 1880. Photograph by Camillus S. Fly.

Soldiers and their commanding officers sometimes brutally tortured or killed the Indians for sport while politicians in Washington, D.C., knew little about differences in tribal cultures, customs, and language. Politicians also ignored political differences and military alliances and tried to apply a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to deal with the “Indian problem”. As a result, tribal friends and foes were forced to live in close proximity to one another. Meanwhile, the Apaches were supposed to be fed and housed by their caretakers, but they rarely saw the federal money and suffered as a result.

As of August 2014, the San Carlos Apache tribe has an enrollment of 15,393 tribal members.

The San Carlos Reservation is one of the poorest Native American communities in the United States, with an annual median household income of approximately $27,542, according to the US Census. About 49.2 percent of the people live under the poverty line, and 36.7 percent of the active labor force is unemployed.

In December 2014, President Barack Obama signed the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which would give land sacred to the Apache in Arizona to Resolution Copper Mine [RCM], a joint venture owned by London based Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton. The Act cleared the way for the land swap in which Resolution Copper would receive 2,422 acres of National Forest land in exchange for deeding to the federal government 5,344 acres of private land.

See Land Swap Map below


A proposal or rider in Section 3003 of the Act, titled “Southeast Arizona Land Exchange and Conservation Act”, would allow RCM to develop and operate an underground copper mine 7,000-feet deep (approximately five Empire State buildings) in the publicly owned Tonto National Forest near Superior, Arizona. The mine would destroy an area set aside in 1955 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower that is sacred to the San Carlos Apache. The land contains more than 2,400 acres of the Oak Flat Campground, an area dotted with petroglyphs and historic and prehistoric sites. Said former San Carlos Apache tribal chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr. of the Act’s attached rider: “This is Congressional politics at its worse, a hidden agenda that destroys human rights and religious rights.”

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, under the leadership of Chairman Terry Rambler, has led a strong opposition to the RCM land exchange. Both the National Audubon Society in Tucson and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club in Arizona along with the National Congress of American Indians have joined in the fight to Resolution’s land grab. Native American groups and conservationists worry about the impact to surrounding areas, including the steep cliffs at Apache Leap. James Anaya, former United Nations special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that without community and tribal support, Rio Tinto should abandon its Resolution Copper mining project. United States Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said she was “profoundly disappointed with the Resolution Copper provision, which has no regard for lands considered sacred by nearby Indian tribes”.

By January 2015 over 104,000 had signed a petition to President Obama, “We the People|Stop Apache Land Grab”. Jodi Gillette, Special Assistant to the President for Native American Affairs, quickly gave an official White House response, vowing that the Obama Administration will work with Resolution Copper’s parent company Rio Tinto to determine how to work with the tribes to preserve their sacred areas.

In March 2016, the Oak Flat campground was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the designated site, which is identified by the National Register as the “Chi’chil Bildagoteel Historic District” will not stop the Resolution Copper mine, a federal agency must evaluate the project’s effects on the property before taking action. Bills introduced in 2015 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) and Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Tucson) would reverse the land-exchange deal, but neither has received a hearing

The Resolution Copper mine land grab has succeeded but is being currently debated. The Native American Indians see no end to their being treated as non persons when it comes to greed of the corporate ecocidal wheel crushing their hopes and dreams.
Read more at:
http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2017/01/29/the-resolution-copper-land-grab-how-environmental-ngos-expand-green-capitalism/

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From Africa to Australia, then thousands of years later, arrival of the Scots

I have put together what, to me, and surely any other curious person, is the fascinating current understanding of the ancient people who made their way to Australia, possible 40 to 70,000 years ago. Those humans knew how to light fires, and in so doing it is thought they may have burned the landscapes they found which eradicated the habitat of many indigenous creatures. In turn species died out due to fires and maybe over hunting. Plants evolved in Australia which could withstand fire.

The genomes of Australian aborigines, New Guineans and some Pacific Islanders are about 6 percent Denisovan genes, according to earlier studies.  

All human beings have two genomes. The first is the genome of the DNA in chromosomes, the genome of the famous year 2000 human genome project. (See https://www.genome.gov/12011238/an-overview-of-the-human-genome-project/). The website states “The HGP has revealed that there are probably about 20,500 human genes. The completed human sequence can now identify their locations. This ultimate product of the HGP has given the world a resource of detailed information about the structure, organization and function of the complete set of human genes. This information can be thought of as the basic set of inheritable “instructions” for the development and function of a human being.”

The second and much smaller genome is of the DNA in mitochondria; it was mapped, to little public notice, in 1981. Mitochondria are minute, bean-shaped objects, hundreds of which bob about like so much flotsam in the warm, salty envelope of the cell. The body’s chemical plants, they gulp in oxygen and release the energy-rich molecules that power life. It is the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which spans about 16,500 DNA building blocks (base pairs), representing a small fraction of the total DNA in cells. Mitochondria are widely believed to descend from bacteria that long ago somehow became incorporated into one of our evolutionary ancestors. They replicate themselves independently of the rest of the cell, without using its DNA. To accomplish this, they have their own genome, a tiny thing with fewer than fifty genes, left over from their former existence as free-floating bacteria. Because sperm cells are basically devoid of mitochondria, almost all of an embryo’s mitochondria come from the egg. Children’s mitochondria are thus in essence identical to their mother’s. More than that, every woman’s mitochondrial DNA is identical not only to her mother’s mitochondrial DNA, but to that of her mother’s mother’s mitochondrial DNA, and her mother’s mother’s mother’s mitochondrial DNA, and so on down the line for many generations. The same is not true for men. Because fathers don’t contribute mitochondrial DNA to the embryo, the succession occurs only through the female line. In the late 1970s several scientists realized that an ethnic group’s mitochondrial DNA could provide clues to its ancestry. Their reasoning was complex in detail, but simple in principle. People with similar mitochondria have, in the jargon, the same “haplogroup.” If two ethnic groups share the same haplogroup, it is molecular proof that the two groups are related; their members belong to the same female line.

The genome project has influenced all other studies of human existence, such that earlier archaeological finds can be reassessed if sufficient DNA can be retrieved. Frozen bodies previously trapped in the now thawing Arctic are in better condition for such analysis, but if there is sufficiently preserved DNA in ancient skeletal remains, astonishing leaps in tracing our ancient ancestors have been made.

Research, conducted by a large group of genetic scientists, shows that Neanderthals and Denisovans (See mapping of links below) are very closely related, and that their common ancestor split off from the ancestors of modern humans about 400,000 years ago.


Our human species is an African one: Africa is where we first evolved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth. The place of our origin should surely be treated with immense respect.

Evidence is now suggesting that present-day Aboriginal Australians are the oldest population of humans living outside of Africa.


The Mungo Man was discovered by ANU archaeologist Dr. Jim Bowler on February 26, 1974 when shifting sand dunes exposed his remains. He was found near Lake Mungo, one of several dry lakes in the World Heritage listed Willandra Lakes Region. The body was sprinkled with red ochre, in what is the earliest incidence of such a sophisticated and artistic burial practice. This aspect of the discovery has been particularly significant to Indigenous Australians, since it indicates that certain cultural traditions have existed on the Australian continent for much longer than previously thought.

In 2003, a group of scientists from several Australian universities, led by the University of Melbourne, reached a new consensus that Mungo Man is about 40,000 years old. This age largely corresponds with stratigraphic evidence, and used four different dating methods, and brought together scientists from several different universities. The age of 40,000 years is currently the most widely accepted age for the Mungo Man and makes it the second oldest anatomically modern human remains found outside of Africa to date. The study also found that Mungo Lady was a similar age to Mungo Man, and not 30,000 years old, as previously thought. This made Mungo Lady the oldest cremated human remains yet discovered.


The pattern of burn marks on the bones of Mungo Lady implies an unusual ritual that after she died, the corpse was burned, smashed, then burned a second time. It was suspected that her descendants had tried to ensure that she did not return to haunt them.


Aborigines are believed to be among the earliest human migrations out of Africa. This happened around 30 to 40,000 years ago. They possibly used the landmass which formed part of the Sahul continent, connected to the island of New Guinea via a land bridge. It is also possible that people came by island hopping via an island chain between Sulawesi and New Guinea and the other reaches North Western Australia via Timor.

Humans reached Tasmania approximately 40,000 years ago by migrating across a land bridge from the mainland that existed during the last ice age. After the seas rose about 12,000 years ago and covered the land bridge, the inhabitants there were isolated from the mainland until the arrival of European settlers.

See https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/human-journey/

Once the climate started to improve, after 70,000 years ago, we came back from this near-extinction event. The population expanded, and some intrepid explorers ventured beyond Africa. The earliest people to colonize the Eurasian landmass likely did so across the Bab-al-Mandab Strait separating present-day Yemen from Djibouti. These early beachcombers expanded rapidly along the coast to India, and reached Southeast Asia and Australia by 50,000 years ago. The first great foray of our species beyond Africa had led us all the way across the globe.

In August 2012, scientists reported the discovery of human skull fragments in a limestone cave in northern Laos that date back to between 46,000 and 63,000 years ago. The finding was surprising, because it indicated early humans roamed far and wide across Asia after leaving Africa, venturing north and northeast across rough mountainous terrain into Laos and perhaps even China, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Reaching Australia would have presented significant challenges for ancient humans. An ocean has always separated Asia and Oceania, and travel between the two continents would have required humans to navigate dozens of miles of open water. Whether humans colonized Australia intentionally or by accident—after being blown there by monsoon winds, for example—is unknown, although National Geographic’s Wells thinks the former scenario is more likely.

Spencer Wells, a geneticist and a National Geographic explorer-in-residence, has speculated that the first Australians landed in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea—then part of the same landmass—and gradually moved inland by following the river systems of Queensland and southern Australia.

In 2011, using modern gene sequencing techniques, researchers sampled the DNA from a lock of hair that a young Aboriginal man had donated to a British anthropologist in 1923. When DNA in the hair was compared with the genomes of people living in Asia, Europe, and Africa, scientists discovered that Aboriginal Australians are more closely related to Africans than they are to modern Asians and Europeans.

This suggests humans migrated into Eastern Asia in multiple waves and that today’s Aboriginal Australians are descended from an early wave that left Africa about 70,000 years ago, before the ancestors of Asians and Europeans. If confirmed, the finding means that present-day Aboriginal Australians are the oldest population of humans living outside of Africa.

Colonial period

The first Scottish settlers arrived in Australia with the First Fleet in 1788, including three of the first six Governors of New South Wales John Hunter, Lachlan Macquarie (often referred to as the father of Australia) and Thomas Brisbane. … They were not all Scots, but had been tried in Scotland. The First Fleet is the name given to the first group of eleven ships that carried convicts from England to Australia in 1788. Beginning in 1787 the ships departed with about 778 convicts (586 men, 192 women), provisions and agricultural implements. Seventeen convicts died and two were pardoned before departure.

This was just 7 years after the first British expedition of the Endeavour under command of Lieutenant James Cook who was himself the son of a Scottish ploughman. Cook navigated and charted the east coast of Australia, making first landfall at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770. His reports in Cook’s expedition would lead to British settlement of the continent, and during the voyage Cook also named two groups of Pacific islands in honour of Scotland: New Caledonia and the New Hebrides. The first European to die on Australian soil was a Scot; Forbey Sutherland from Orkney, an able seaman died on 30 April 1770 of consumption and was the first to be buried on the colony by Captain Cook, who named Sutherland Point at Botany Bay in his honour.

Now more humans want to migrate to Australia. Many are rejected.

The original peoples of Australia are being seemingly tricked into surrendering their homelands forever with Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) “without understanding they are whitewashing their own history, under the invaders’ law.

This surrendering trick takes effect before the deed of grant of land is issued to the shires of the whole area. In this way compensation is also avoided.”

This opens up their land to corporates who seek to exploit the coal deposits for example, or any other profitable activity which would not be shared with the indigenous people and would sabotage their cherished lands.

see 

http://nationalunitygovernment.org/content/indigenous-land-use-agreements-iluas-trick-first-peoples-surrendering-their-homelands

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