November 16, 2012

Pre-Neolithic Mediterranean Island settlement

PhysOrg coverage of a Science perspective:

Modern science has held that islands such as Cyprus and Crete were first inhabited by seafaring humans approximately 9,000 years ago by agriculturists from the late Neolithic period. Simmons writes that research over the past 20 years has cast doubt on that assumption however and suggests that it might be time to rewrite the history books. He cites evidence such as pieces of obsidian found in a cave in mainland Greece that were found to have come from Melos, an island in the Aegean Sea and were dated at 11,000 years ago as well as artifacts from recent digs on Cyprus that are believed to be from approximately 12,000 years ago. He adds that some researchers have also found evidence that something, or someone caused the extinction of pygmy hippos on Cyprus around the same time.  
Simmons also suggests that the first inhabitants of many of the Mediterranean islands may not have been modern humans at all. Instead, he says evidence has been found that shows that they might have been Neanderthals, or Homo Erectus. Recent excavations on Crete have turned up artifacts that are thought to be 110,000 years old, for example, and a stone axe was found that is believed to have been made on the same island as far back as 170,000 years ago. Since modern humans are believed to have come into being roughly 100,000 to 200,000 years ago, the possibility exists that such artifacts were left behind by an early ancestor or cousin.

Science 16 November 2012: Vol. 338 no. 6109 pp. 895-897 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228880

Mediterranean Island Voyages

Alan Simmons

Some of the classical world's most innovative cultures developed on Mediterranean islands, but their earlier human use is poorly known. The islands, particularly those further from the mainland such as Crete and Cyprus, were thought to have been first colonized about 9000 years ago by late Neolithic agriculturalists with domesticated resources. Until about 20 years ago, claims of earlier, pre-Neolithic occupations on any of the islands did not stand up to critical scrutiny (1), but current investigations are challenging these perceptions. Discoveries on Cyprus, Crete, and some Ionian islands suggest seafaring abilities by pre-Neolithic peoples, perhaps extending back to Neanderthals or even earlier hominins. In Cyprus, Neolithic sites have been documented that are nearly as early as those on the mainland.


1 comment:

Black Taylor said...

This seems to strengthen the case for what is really 'ongoing' trans-mediterranean migration, across time periods. If the mediterranean acted more like a continual or at least intermittent highway for genes and goods, this could explain the higher mediterranean autosomal component of the La Brana individual relative to other contemporary mesolithic europeans, and could even explain mtDNA haplogroup H showing up at Linatzeta around 6200 BC as per the Lacan thesis and even earlier at La Pasiega as per the Hervella paper. All of these may be thought of as signals of eastern/trans-mediterranean admixture prior to the neolithic.

Continuing this line of thought about coast-hopping movement and trade in the pre-neolithic would ultimately have the degree of neolithic replacement reduced in many mediterranean and atlantic-facade regions and provide a more deep-seated contrast between southern/western and northeastern/baltic pre-neolithic europeans. In this view the neolithic transition would mark an acceleration of a pre-existing trend of movement rather than a new development, and possibly reconcile some the haplogroup expansion age estimates that appear to somewhat predate the neolithic but are nonetheless heavily tied to it (e.g. mtDNA H).