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Ancient Mariners: Did Neanderthals Sail to Mediterranean?


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Author Topic: Ancient Mariners: Did Neanderthals Sail to Mediterranean?  (Read 204 times)
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« on: November 18, 2012, 08:56:39 am »

 Neanderthal sailors?

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."

Recently, research has hinted that seafarers may have made their way out to the Mediterranean islands even earlier, long before the Neolithic, and not only to isles close to the mainland, but to more distant ones as well, such as Crete.

For instance, stone artifacts on the southern Ionian Islands hint at human sites there as early as 110,000 years ago. Investigators have also recovered quartz hand-axs, three-sided picks and stone cleavers from Crete that may date back about 170,000 years ago. The distance of Crete about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the mainland would have made such a sea voyage no small feat.

The exceedingly old age of these artifacts suggests the seafarers who made them might not even been modern humans, who originated between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago. Instead, they might have been Neanderthals or perhaps even Homo erectus.

"The whole idea of seafaring makes these extinct groups seem more human — they were going out to sea to explore places that were uninhabited," Simmons told LiveScience.
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