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Big Stone Axes for chopping down trees

1 October 2010

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/63888/description/Ancient_New_Guinea/ … it seems that people in what is now New Guinea nearly 50,000 years ago fashioned stone tools known as ‘waisted axes’ which used their body as well as their arms to fell trees and clear patches of forest in a mountain valley deep in the interior of New Guinea – and yet they aren’t thought to have practised horticulture or garden agriculture until around 10,000 years ago. That is not all, people living in what is now the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea would have been living on a greater land mass which during the Ice Age would have included at least the very large continental shelf system to the north and west of Australia. This opens the prospect that Aborigines may have been living in Australia before 50,000 years ago – in spite of the consensus opinion that says that is impossible. The assumption has always been that modern humans spread from Africa to the region by coastal hopping and preferred living at low altitudes. This discovery may blow a hole in that theory – indeed, even the idea of a pristine politically correct modern human migration out of Africa. The fact that humans had migrated well inland, traversing mountains to reach the hidden valley, suggests the motivation was simply human numbers – the lowland zone had become too overpopulated. The journal Science (October issue) has the paper but the paper appears to bypass most of the anomalies thrown up. We know that Aborigines have similarities with the people of southern India, or basically, the pre-aryan peoples of the sub-continent – and we also know that humans were living in India as early as 70 to 80,000 years ago. Therefore, we have to imagine that either modern humans migrated out of Africa as early as 100,000 years ago or the Aborigine/Melanesian migrations were seperate to that of a later migration. The inference of this might be that we are not as pristine as the politics would desire – or that humans did not reach the Near East and Europe until thousands of years afterwards. This is not altogether unlikely as Europe during the Ice Age was a far from pleasant habitat in which Neanderthals continued to roam until around 35,000 years ago. The other possibility that we might consider is that the Neanderthals were the ancestors of Europeans and the ancestors of Aborigines, Melanesians and Dravidians was perhaps Homo Erectus, or a developed form of that species – much as was suggested some years ago but a theory that was trodden on as racist. In contradiction to this view is the evidence of DNA – there was no connection whatsoever until a few months ago when new research claimed there might have been a very small admixture. However, how reliable is modern DNA in determining ancient DNA? There appears to be some quibbles involved – but such an interpretation,as far as descent is concerned, would appear to be completely out of the question. Once again we have a mystery. This is compounded by reason evidence of ancient humanity is very often based on tool assemblages rather than actual skeletal material.

There is of course one further possibility – humans did not necessarily originate in a virgin environment such as Africa – but in the Indian sub-continent or SE Asia.

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