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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Friday, December 31, 2010

Erectus in America, The Journey from Asia

 
Homo erectus
Homo Erectus. Adapted from [3] by Austin Whittall

Homo erectus remains have only been found, until now, in the Old World (Africa, Europe and Asia). They may have entered Australia (if my interpretation of the "robust" crania found in Kow Swamp is correct). However, no bones belonging to H. erectus have been found in America (yet).

I find this unusual, why would an intelligent hominid, a direct ancestor of modern humans, who evolved in Africa some 1.9 Million years ago, and shortly after (1.8 million years ago) moved out of his home into Asia not be able to reach America after colonizing the whole of the Old World?

He was bright (brainier than any other previous hominid) and in fact, during his time and until the appearance of modern man, he was the most intelligent creature on earth. He was, therefore, capable and well equipped to do so. Would he have stopped in northern China because it was just too cold to go on?

Modern man, when faced with the same circumstances, and with the same basic survival kit (furs as clothes, stone tools and the ability to light a fire), moved on, after his prey into America. H. erectus (which, by the way, means "upright man" in Latin) could surely have done the same.

The question is: Did he?

H. erectus was a very successful species, they survived for nearly 1.8 million years until they became extinct (perhaps wiped out by men and here wiped out means that: genocide, or, maybe they were unable to compete with us in the same ecological niche and just died out).

In comparison, we, modern Homo sapiens have only managed to keep alive for 150 thousand years, less than 10% of the time that H. erectus lived. Theris was quite a feat, and it is a clear indication of their capabilities.

Into America.

For H. erectus to reach America, he needed a route, the ability to do so and the gear to cope with the different colder regions he would have to trek through to get there, and also, have enough time to do so before men appeared in the New World.

As mentioned above, they had the capability to do so because they had already walked all the way from Africa to Java and northern China, and because they survived for over one and a half million years in a menacing world, packed with man-eating beasts.

Lets look at the other factors:

a. The time frame

After leaving Africa, and until modern man did the same thing some some 150 thousand years ago, H. erectus had the whole world for themselves. They walked our of Africa and peopled Eurasia. Their remains have been found in Indonesia and China and some intermediate spots outside of Africa.
So, we are talking about roughly 1.7 million years to walk from Africa to Tierra del Fuego; plenty of time.

b. The way

There is one easy way and one difficult way, the easy way is walking on dry ground, from China to Alaska and from there to the rest of America.

This would require a dry land route across Bering Strait, or (the difficult way), boats and able seamen to row them along the coasts of Asia and Alaska into America.

I am not taking into account a possible trans-Pacific route because I believe that it is quite improbable. There is limited evidence of island hopping erectus in the Indonesian area, which could be used to explain a coastal sea route for a bunch of these hominids from Asia to America, and even further, along the Pacific coast, all the way to Patagonia.

Read more about H. erectus the seaman and sailor.

Beringia

But lets take a look at the more probable dry route, from Siberia to Alaska which is an intermittent one, the "Beringia Land Bridge".

Though it first came into existence 70 million years ago during the Age of the Dinosaurs, it has formed many times since then and allowed exchange of animals across it.

Beringia is always mentioned as the route taken by modern man into America, and it is always placed in the most recent Ice Age context (not before 30,000 years ago). But for H. erectus to have crossed it, we must look further back in time, over half a million years ago, and maybe even one million years or even more.

The Bering and Chukchi Seas are shallow and the seabed (which is less than 100 meters - 330 ft. below current sea level) is very flat. When sea levels drop about 50 m below present levels, (and this happens when ice is trapped in glacial ice during the Ice Ages), it emerges from the receding sea levels and serves as a temporary land bridge linking Asia and America.

Then, when the climate shifts and warms up again, causing glaciers to melt, sea level rises, flooding the bridge and cutting-off connection between the Old and the New worlds.

We know that during the Villafranchian stage (a period which spans the Upper Pliocene and Lower Pleistocene from 3.6 to 1.2 Million years ago), Beringia was dry and and served as a bridge. During this period the American horse crossed into the Old World using the "bridge", and Archidiskodon elephants migrated into America from Asia. [1]

Also, during the last 500 thousand years, the bridge formed several times as the world cooled during glaciations.

The name "bridge" is actually a misnomer, as it was a vast flat treeless steppe covered with -depending on the weather of that period- grasses or tundra, on which the roaming megafauanal beasts fed.

Mammoths, woolly rhinos, bison, horses and deer (caribou) lived there as well as their usual predators. So there was a resource which could be exploited for food during the crossing.

Though cold, it was not covered with glaciers thousands of meters thick like the rest of northern America or the northern parts of Europe or Arctic Asia, it was not too different from the conditions they encountered in Asia at that time.
So we have a feasible route which was in place early enough to allow our distant ancestor to cross into America right after he reached Asia, during the late Villafranchian stage.

c. Cold and H. erectus

Assuming that H. erectus moved further north than his known northernmost territory in China, close to Beijing, he was well equipped to face the tough Siberian and Beringian weather, consider this [2]:

  • There is evidence that they used fire as early as 1.6 million years ago.
  • They had their own distinctive stone tools, the Acheulean, which they used to butcher the animals that they hunted.
  • They were hunter - gatherers and there is evidence that they engaged in big game hunting, a clear indication of their intellectual level and the possible use of language.
  • North China climate was cold, so it is likely that they used clothing.

Closing comments

So, it is possible that over one million years ago H. erectus marched from China into Alaska and from there dispersed across the New World. Surely he would have -as he did in Asia, remain close to the coast. Which due to lower sea levels of that time, was far away from the current coastline (and is now surely submerged). However there must be, as in Asia, caves and dwellings awaiting to be discovered or (as seems the case with several findings ignored by mainstream archaeology), acknowledged by science.

Bye bye 2010, hello 2011

Well, as this is my last post for 2010, I want to wish you all a Very Happy New Year, may 2011 bring out the best in all of us!

Sources.

[1] David Moody Hopkins, (1967). The Bering Land Bridge. Stanford Univ. Press. pp. 281
[2] Joseph Sneed. Colorado School of Mines. Homo Erectus.
[3] Aedeen Cremin, (2007). Archaeologica: The World's Most Significant Sites and Cultural Treasures. Frances Lincoln ltd. pp.204



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
2010 International Year of Biodiversity Copyright 2009-2010 by Austin Whittall © 

2 comments:

  1. Hello Austin,

    Just found your site and am interested in what you have written.

    Please keep on doing what you are doing - it is an eye opener for me and many other readers.

    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for your comment! it is encouraging to see that someone has read it and found it interesting.
    Austin

    ReplyDelete

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