Homo erectus - boats (update)

22 Aug 2011

In a follow-up to the story of a few days ago on Homo erectus reaching Crete by using boats (see for instance www.physorg.com/print232812463.html). I have come across an article at http://mc2.vicnet.net.au/home/epistem/web/meta.html where Homo erectus in boats is accepted as a means by which early humans colonised islands off the mainland in various parts of the world - such as Australia and New Guinea, the Solomons, Japan etc. As Homo erectus was the first group of humans to colonise a large proportion of the world, including establishing themselves along coastal corridors as well as on islands, they must have been using boats or rafts - hundreds of thousands of years ago (dates rely on various methodologieswhich rely on a uniformitarian concept of the past). Now, I came across the name of Robert Bednarik, the author of the article, in a BBC publication of Alice Roberts TV series, 'The Incredible Human Journey' - which is a pretty good overview of current discoveries in human origins and the theories thereof developing out of them. She accompanied Bednarik and a group of Indonesian fishermen on a raft journey to test the hypothesis early people were able to cross bodies of water - in this instance, hopping between Indonesian islands on a raft made of bamboo. During the expedition description Alice Roberts mentioned that Bednarik did not support the consensus Out of Africa theory. She did and they begged to differ - and that caught my eye and so I put his name in a search engine and came up with his web site. Lots of articles. Bednarik considers modern humans developed regionally rather than at a single spot on the planet. For example, in SE Asia, and Asia in general I suppose, modern humans emerged from Homo erectus whereas in Africa modern humans had an entirely different route of emergence (and presumably Europeans and the people of western Asia emerged from Neanderthals). There is a lot of faith in acceptance of any single theory but Alice Roberts gave as one reason why regional emergence was not feasible was the populations of Homo erectus (and Neanderthals etc) would have had to catastrophically collapse to a very small number of persons - to aid the transition from older to modern. She could not accept regional emergence, it seems, simply on the basis there were too many Homo erectus persons for the biological change to happen spontaneously. She clearly accepted the DNA evidence that humans could be traced back to one origin - a pristine modern human mutation (in this case, in Africa). However, if what is being found, most recently in southern Africa, are the early ancestors of the Bushmen does that automatically mean that Bushmen migrated out of Africa and gave the world Homo sapiens sapiens, or is this, as Bednarik says, a peculiarly British obsession (or western European), that modern humans originated in Afroca. Are anthropologists in other parts of the world not sure of this - by no means convinced of Out of Africa. Is there some kind of modern political dimension here?