Aquatic Neanderthals and Paleolithic Seafaring: Myth or Reality? Examples from the Mediterranean

Author(s): Alan Simmons

Year: 2018


It long has been assumed that most of the world’s islands, especially remote ones, were first visited or colonized by fully modern humans. With few exceptions, these events occurred late, during the Neolithic or later, with an implied assumption that most islands could not support hunters and gatherers. We know that this scenario is no longer viable, with examples from Australia and southeastern Asia, such as Flores and Sulawesi, suggesting considerable antiquity extending prior to the emergence of both modern Homo sapiens and Neolithic economies. In this presentation, I summarize some of the emerging data from the Mediterranean that suggests pre-Neolithic, and in some cases, pre-modern, seafaring to some of the islands. Also addressed are the substantial problems of documenting and dating such sites. Finally, I conclude with the implications of systematic seafaring in human evolution, especially as it relates to the considerable skills required for seafaring, such as long-term planning, adequate technology, navigation abilities, and, ultimately, "why" such activities would even be undertaken in the first place. If pre-modern seafaring can be adequately documented, and shown to be systematic rather than random or one-time events, it indicates that these early humans had cognitive skills similar to fully modern people.

Cite this Record

Aquatic Neanderthals and Paleolithic Seafaring: Myth or Reality? Examples from the Mediterranean. Alan Simmons. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 443462)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: 34.277; min lat: 13.069 ; max long: 61.699; max lat: 42.94 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 19921