Evidence suggests Neanderthals took to boats before modern humans

Mar 01, 2012 by Bob Yirka report
Neanderthal
The Reconstruction of the Funeral of Homo neanderthalensis. Captured in the Hannover Zoo. (Via Wikipedia)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Neanderthals, considered either a sub-species of modern humans or a separate species altogether, lived from approximately 300,000 years ago to somewhere near 24,000 years ago, when they inexplicably disappeared, leaving behind traces of their DNA in some Middle Eastern people and artifacts strewn all across the southern part of Europe and extending into western Asia. Some of those artifacts, stone tools that are uniquely associated with them, have been found on islands in the Mediterranean Sea, suggesting, according to a paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, by George Ferentinos and colleagues, that Neanderthals had figured out how to travel by boat. And if they did, it appears they did so before modern humans.

The stone “mousterian” tools are unique to and have been found on the islands of Zakynthos, Lefkada and Kefalonia, which range from five to twelve kilometers from mainland Greece. Some, such as Paul Pettitt from the University of Sheffield, suggest they could have swum that far. But that doesn’t explain how similar tools found on the island of Crete got there. That would have meant swimming forty kilometers, which seems extremely unlikely, especially since such swimmers wouldn’t have known beforehand that Crete was there to find.

Ferentinos et al suggest the evidence shows that Neanderthals not only figured out how to build boats and sail but did so quite extensively well before modern humans ever got the idea. They say because the tools found on the islands are believed to date back 100,000 years (and the islands have been shown to have been islands back then as well) Neanderthal people were sailing around that long ago. Thus far, evidence for modern humans sailing dates back to just 50,000 years when they made their way to Australia. If true, that would mean Neanderthal people were sailing around in the Mediterranean for fifty thousand years before modern people built their first boat.

Others have suggested that hominids have been sailing for as long as a million years; found on the Indonesian island of Flores date back that far. It could be that both modern humans and Neanderthals were boating around for hundreds of thousands of years and we just don’t have any evidence of it because the boats back then would have been made of wood and evidence of their existence would have decayed to nothing long ago.

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More information: Early seafaring activity in the southern Ionian Islands, Mediterranean Sea, Journal of Archaeological Science, In Press, Corrected Proof. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jas.2012.01.032

Abstract
This paper summarises the current development in the southern Ionian Islands (Kefallinia and Zakynthos) prehistory and places it within the context of seafaring. Archaeological data from the southern Ionian Islands show human habitation since Middle Palaeolithic going back to 110 ka BP yet bathymetry, sea-level changes and the Late Quaternary geology, show that Kefallinia and Zakynthos were insular at that time. Hence, human presence in these islands indicates inter island-mainland seafaring. Seafaring most likely started some time between 110 and 35 ka BP and the seafarers were the Neanderthals. Seafaring was encouraged by the coastal configuration, which offered the right conditions for developing seafaring skills according to the “voyaging nurseries” and “autocatalysis” concepts.

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knowalot
1.5 / 5 (20) Mar 01, 2012
So instead of being the mindless brutes as they often have been portrayed, the Neanderthals were very much like modern humans: intelligent, social and creative. Time to start rewriting the history of human evolution (again). Is a shocking paradigm shift in evolutionary thinking over the horizon perhaps: there never was a common ancestor of humans and apes, and the human evolutionary tree is merely a figment of our imagination.

(I hope it is allowed to make such a statement on a science site, otherwise feel free to remove it in the name of free thought and rationality.)
TS1
3.1 / 5 (9) Mar 01, 2012
Apropos this statement in the article:
"Others have suggested that hominids have been sailing for as long as a million years; stone tools found on the Indonesian island of Flores date back that far."

So how are stone tools dated? By dating the stone material on it based on some isotopes? In that case how would that indicate how old the tool itself is? After all the stone material would hardly have appeared into existence at the same time as the tool.

So currently we have very ancient rock material on our planet. If I fashioned a mousterian tool out of that and it was dated, would it also indicate that the age was 100K years because the material is old?
Lurker2358
1.5 / 5 (15) Mar 01, 2012
Apropos this statement in the article:
"Others have suggested that hominids have been sailing for as long as a million years; stone tools found on the Indonesian island of Flores date back that far."

So how are stone tools dated? By dating the stone material on it based on some isotopes? In that case how would that indicate how old the tool itself is? After all the stone material would hardly have appeared into existence at the same time as the tool.

So currently we have very ancient rock material on our planet. If I fashioned a mousterian tool out of that and it was dated, would it also indicate that the age was 100K years because the material is old?

7/5.

Best post and best catch I've ever seen on here.

Just goes to show the absolute absurdity of some forms of radio dating, as well as improper usage of radio dating in archeology and paleontology in general.
Lurker2358
1.9 / 5 (13) Mar 01, 2012
Neanderthals ARE modern humans.

They are just another "race" just like African, caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic, etc.

they were probably killed off in some stupid tribal war or some prehistoric Hitler or Khan prototype.

Look around at the differences in facial and bone structures, and dare I say, even cranial capacity between and even within races today...It's not species. It's just another race.

danlgarmstrong
4.4 / 5 (17) Mar 01, 2012
Stone tools are usually dated by the strata they are buried in. If organic matter is on top of the tool, it is assumed that it came after the tool was dropped, thus the age of this matter will approximate the age of the tool.
hyongx
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 01, 2012
" I'm on a boat , m*****f*****, I'm on a boat!!"
-neanderthals
Royale
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2012
hyongx,
I wonder if there were m*****f***ing snakes on their m*****f***ing boats.
RitchieGuy
2.3 / 5 (13) Mar 01, 2012
There is an alternate viewpoint that life arose, not just in Africa, but in other parts of the world not far from Equatorial regions where environmental conditions were optimum for their continued evolution into humans and other animals. That hypothesis would indicate that Earth was seeded with the right combinations of compounds and that nutrients were plentiful. It could also indicate that homosapiens sapiens and neanderthalensis may not have been the only 2 species of human to dominate the Earth, even for a short time. Two doesn't necessarily mean that there were no others who grew from a different stock but could also interbreed with homo and neanderthal. Since life occurs almost everywhere on Earth and underwater, the chances of even more diversity are possibly endless, given the right conditions. To say that hominids only came into being in Africa and nowhere else is unscientific. The proof would be in bones if found, not in implements.
RitchieGuy
2.8 / 5 (9) Mar 01, 2012
@Lurker
Hispanic is not a race; it just means those who speak the Spanish language and could be of different racial stock and culture. It's mainly the Spanish language that ties them altogether into a collection of people in the Census. Mexicans are different from Cubans, for instance. And Spaniards from Europe are not Hispanic at all.
RitchieGuy
2.3 / 5 (7) Mar 01, 2012
@Lurker
Hispanic is not a race; it just means those who speak the Spanish language and could be of different racial stock and culture. It's mainly the Spanish language that ties them altogether into a collection of people in the Census. Mexicans who are Indian and Spaniard descent are different from Puerto Ricans, for instance because Puerto Ricans are mosty mixed with Blacks and Mexicans are not. And Spaniards from Europe are not Hispanic at all. (edited)
that_guy
4.6 / 5 (12) Mar 01, 2012
So instead of being the mindless brutes as they often have been portrayed, the Neanderthals were very much like modern humans

I hope it is allowed to make such a statement on a science site

You're allowed to have your opinion, but the societal view of neanderthals is not equal to the scientific view. The scientific community has been saying/showing for years that neanderthals were more intelligent than most of us give them credit for.

As far as the evolving view - When all you know about someone is a spear, and then you find a skull, paintings, then cloths, etc - it is only logical to update your opinions in the face of new information.

@TS1 - radiocarbon dating works for organic matter due to atmospheric (Mostly CO2) gasses being impacted by cosmic rays. This creates radioactive isotopes that decay at a predictable rate once incorporated into a solid, or buried. Rocks are usually dated by the organic matter that they are buried with.
Lurker2358
2 / 5 (10) Mar 01, 2012
That guy:

Carbon dating is only used for a few half-lives worth of time.

Artifacts or rocks older than about 4 or 5 carbon 14 half-lives should be at least cross referenced with an alternative radio dating method involving an appropriate, long-lived isotope.

At any rate, it's a fallacy, because the rate of cosmic radiation in the past could have been, and probably was, significantly higher at various times in the past, particularly following nearby supernovas or just other weird phenomena.
nkalanaga
5 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2012
Some rock tools can also be dated by the last time they were heated, if they were found in the remains of a fire. Others have been dated by when the surface was first exposed to air, or cosmic radiation, showing when the rock was broken from a larger mass.
that_guy
3.9 / 5 (7) Mar 01, 2012
@ritchie -
If you go back far enough, the human race/all hominids all rose from a single progenitor species that very likely came out of Africa. The point here is that if you go far back enough, you have one ancestor group that came from one location. The scientific consensus is that the original group was from Africa.
-----------
I agree that the nomenclature they use to categorize humans and races is rather loose - as well as speciation etc.

But, scientifically, neanderthals are usually classified as a subspecies of modern human, so you could argue that calling them a 'race' is not far off the mark of scientific consensus.
that_guy
4.6 / 5 (12) Mar 01, 2012
@lurker

What we would think as a hugely drastic swing in cosmic particles/radiation would only be a change of a few percent.

While your arguments are not completely without merit in a general sense, if it was enough to change the result by more than one or two percent, it would have created a major extinction event, and we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Carbon dating does come with a range due to unknowns, and is not used substantially past a few hundred thousand years, and in fact IS cross referenced when other dating methods are available. We know, because of other corroborating methods, that carbon dating is absolutely accurate to at least 60k years.

We do use other methods and radio-isotopes as well. Carbon dating is used commonly for this time period because it has been proven reliable.

http://en.wikiped...n_dating

You should do some research on the various dating methods.
scottalias
5 / 5 (1) Mar 01, 2012
An artifact like a tool made is usually not dated directly but instead is dated according to the age of the sediment layers it is found in, or by optically stimulated luminescence (OLS), which measures the amount of radiation trapped in sediment grains when they were last exposed to sunlight.
Allex
3 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2012
That guy:

Carbon dating is only used for a few half-lives worth of time.

Artifacts or rocks older than about 4 or 5 carbon 14 half-lives should be at least cross referenced with an alternative radio dating method involving an appropriate, long-lived isotope.

At any rate, it's a fallacy, because the rate of cosmic radiation in the past could have been, and probably was, significantly higher at various times in the past, particularly following nearby supernovas or just other weird phenomena.

Only a moron (or a creationist - both are just the same "kinds" of Humans) would date stone tools with Carbon isotopes. You clearly have no idea about the principles of radiometric dating, like many ID proponents, and since you fight something you don't understand you produce all those silly comments.

As for the amount of cosmic radiation - even if there were higher in the past - do you have any evidence for that or just your own layman opinion? Because, you know opinion is not worth much.
Rohitasch
5 / 5 (5) Mar 01, 2012
So instead of being the mindless brutes as they often have been portrayed,...
...and the human evolutionary tree is merely a figment of our imagination.

I suggest moving beyond the 1965 encyclopaedia on "Cave Men". There has been amazing updates in practical sciences since the 60's. Most assumptions on the story of life have been worked through and a lot many changes have been required to explain what has been found. There was constant refinement through the last decade or two leading to reclassification of life beyond the two kingdoms we studied in school. The Neanderthal genome has been mapped more accurately than that of our species (ours was mapped earlier so it has to be redone).
The Neanderthals have the same "missing chromosome" situation that our genome does: all the other great apes have 24 pairs, we have 23 - our 2nd chromosome is made of what were initially two separate chromosomes.

Get a newer edition of your encyclopaedia... something that was updated recently.
the-big-eazy
not rated yet Mar 01, 2012
Rohitasch
Any idea on all the other humanoid fossils found, do they also only have 23 chromosomes like us and neanderthals?
that_guy
4 / 5 (2) Mar 01, 2012
...the neanderthal genome has been mapped more accurately...


That statement actually brings up another point about changing views of historical peoples and animals.

We used to be only able to study them morphologically and sometimes sociologically (From artifacts). Only in the last ten years have we had the full benefit of genomic and in depth genetic comparison.

This is why our scientific views on taxonomy and ancient animals have changed recently - because there's less guesswork when we're putting the branches on the trees.
animah
3.7 / 5 (6) Mar 01, 2012
At any rate, it's a fallacy, because the rate of cosmic radiation in the past could have been, and probably was, significantly higher at various times in the past


Did you think scientists hadn't thought of checking?

This is well researched as cosmic rays leave traces in ice and rock cores that you can drill to considerable depth, see for just one example:

http://adsabs.har...34..335L

Cosmic radiation rates do vary, and quite significantly at that, but what matters is the average.

In other words the fallacy is yours because your statement is biased - it was indeed higher at various times, but also lower at various other times.
animah
4 / 5 (4) Mar 01, 2012
Just did a bit of googling - it turns out cosmic radiation decreases are both significant and extremely common, see "Forbush decrease":

http://en.wikiped...decrease
g9_
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
If neanderthal had been around for a million years could they also developed beyond are understanding . Are pregenitor have been around one hundred thousand years and see how far we came .
uhjim
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
we probably killed them off with something like small pox.
Rydog
4 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2012
"Evidence suggests Neanderthals took to boats before modern humans"

Pretty much everything the Neanderthals did was prior to modern humans. Derp Derp
Au-Pu
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2012
Recent work has shown that the neanderthal brain cavity was larger than that of modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens). Recent work also shows that the brain of modern humans is reducing in size.
Brain size may not be a determinant of intelligence but rather a sign of how much information we needed to remember in order to survive. I have witnessed Ravens using reasoning to obtain a food source. They were clearly using intelligence. Their brain is very small when compared to ours and those of great apes and dolphins. So brain size may be more dependant upon memory needs than intelligence needs. Our egos tell us that we are the smartest thing that ever lived. Yet we are breeding ourselves into possible extinction. Just how intelligent is that?
The most probable cause of the demise of neanderthals may well be that they have been absorbed into the modern human species and simply been as a separate species out bred.
So that all that remains is modern humans in various sub species.
Birger
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
Hmm... a pity the Erectus did not manage to cross the Timor Sea to Australia. Since they had more crude hunting technologies, the big marsupial animals might have survived the onslaught, while developing a healthy fear of humans.
Today's fauna is much depleted.
The same can be said about the Americas; mammoths and giant sloths might have survived Erectus hunters but were completely unprepared for modern humans.
caracas
1 / 5 (2) Mar 02, 2012
And Spaniards from Europe are not Hispanic at all. (edited)


you have a racist concept of nation or culture. All hispanic peoples around world have spanish blood.
Rohitasch
5 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2012
@the-big-eazy

Rohitasch
Any idea on all the other humanoid fossils found, do they also only have 23 chromosomes like us and neanderthals?


The Denisovans too had 23 I heard (I haven't read the source of that myself though). I hope someone retrieves some good Homo Erectus DNA soon. I feel they too should have 23 as at least three of their descendant species have 23.
Shitead
1 / 5 (1) Mar 03, 2012
The Neanderthals did not sail, or paddle, or float to Crete; they walked. At the height of the ice ages, sea level was 400 feet below where it is now. The animals they hunted on Crete were the same animals they hunted in Greece. Next they will be saying that Neanderthals had arks!
Evilbeagle
not rated yet Mar 12, 2012
Neanderthals ARE modern humans.

They are just another "race" just like African, caucasian, Asian, and Hispanic, etc.

they were probably killed off in some stupid tribal war or some prehistoric Hitler or Khan prototype.

Look around at the differences in facial and bone structures, and dare I say, even cranial capacity between and even within races today...It's not species. It's just another race.



You may want to learn the difference between a species and a race. We know that the Neanderthal was a different species, as we are genetically different. A person of a different race is still a person, and while you are at it, please learn what the definition of a "race" is.