Ancient Mariners: Did Neanderthals Sail to Mediterranean?
Charles Choi, Live Science, 15-11-2012
Neanderthals and other extinct human lineages might have been ancient mariners, venturing to the Mediterranean islands thousands of years earlier than previously thought. This prehistoric seafaring could shed light on the mental capabilities of these lost relatives of modern humans, researchers say.Scientists had thought the Mediterranean islands were first settled about 9,000 years ago by Neolithic or New Stone Age farmers and shepherds.
“On a lot of Mediterranean islands, you have these amazing remains from classical antiquity to study, so for many years people didn’t even look for older sites,” said archaeologist Alan Simmons at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. However, in the last 20 years or so, some evidence has surfaced for a human presence on these islands dating back immediately before the Neolithic. “There’s still a lot to find in archaeology — you have to keep pushing the envelope in terms of conventional wisdom,” Simmons said.
For instance, obsidian from the Aegean island of Melos was uncovered at the mainland Greek coastal site of Franchthi cave in layers that were about 11,000 years old, while excavations on the southern coast of Cyprus revealed stone artifacts about 12,000 years old. “We found evidence that human hunters may have helped drive pygmy hippos to extinction on Cyprus about 12,000 years ago,” Simmons said. “This suggests that seafarers didn’t need to have already domesticated plants and animals to go to these islands, which is a pretty complex set of tricks — they could have been hunter-gatherers.”
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