Misdirection and even forms of sleight-of-hand might be part of this, but inexplicable behavior designated only as 'beyond common understanding' (if that) is a greater part. Special, ill-defined terminology also helps (you know, like 'redacted' instead of 'censored, deleted' 'hidden' or 'blocked out'; neither my dictionary nor my thesaurus includes it, but an internet search gave me "edit"
We all indulge in some magical thinking, if only about sex and death; some are far more pretentious about it than others. Perhaps it is just more necessary for them, for war and dynastic power politics, political cohesion, power-structure delineation, influencing emotional weather when necessary, ego maintenance and perhaps other things I'm not able to know about.
Many are well familiar with the “Out of Africa” hypothesis that modern humans evolved in Africa and dispersed across Asia, reaching Australia in a single wave about 60,000 years ago. However, technological advances in DNA analysis and other fossil identification techniques, as well as an emphasis on multidisciplinary research, are revising this story. Recent discoveries show that humans left Africa multiple times prior to 60,000 years ago, that they interbred with other hominids in many locations across Eurasia, and that humans may well have been in Australia even 75,000 years ago. Recent evidence shows that early humans were already present in Eurasia before the split that gave rise to Neanderthals, Denisovans and Homo sapiens sapiens, and that humans almost identical to those of living populations had emerged in East Asia long before they appeared in the African fossil record.
Surely well before egress from Africa humanity had experienced much differentiation: some were better flint-knappers, others good trackers or clothing makers. Some excelled at story-telling, a few learned and retained more than others about roots, barks, mushrooms, poisons, plant or insect secretions useful on wounds… Once in a while someone would excel at ritual, singing, imitating animal noises or whistling. Some could run faster than others, some could carry more. Seems likely to me that someone would be delegated responsibility for fire-starting and tending, while others served more as trackers, scouts and/or guards. Some tended to spread joy, others animosity. And as individuals diverged, so also did groups, and not only in adjustments to varied terrain. We know that some became tall, others short, with tribes remaining that way today. We also know that people that vary extensively from one another often don’t much like each other.
Fossils of seemingly modern humans have been announced by archaeologists working at several Chinese digs, mostly in central and southern China, with associated dates ranging from 80,000 to 178,000 years in age. A site with evidence of very early symbolic behavior (prior to 40,000 BCE) is Kara Bom (discovered 1981), is located, like Denisova Cave of the extremely robust Denisovans, in the Russian Altai Mountains (near where Kazakhstan and Mongolia almost meet, and Russia and China do).
A single dispersal of anatomically modern humans out of Africa around 60,000 years ago can’t be the full story. Homo sapiens reached distant parts of the Asian continent, as well as Oceania, earlier than previously thought. Additionally, evidence that modern humans interbred with other hominids already present in Asia, including Neanderthals and Denisovans, complicates the evolutionary picture. Humans, well, hominids anyway, apparently started leaving Africa as early as 200,000 years ago; maybe much, much earlier, unless somehow some parallel evolution occurred or scientists just have the wrong end of the stick. Other finds also show that modern humans reached Southeast Asia and Australia well before 60,000 years ago.
However, other recent studies do confirm that all present-day non-African populations branched off from a single ancestral population in Africa approximately 60,000 years ago. This could indicate that there were multiple, smaller dispersals of humans out of Africa beginning perhaps 120,000 years ago, perhaps earlier, but followed by a major exodus about 60,000 years ago. While the recent dispersal contributed the bulk of the genetic make-up of present-day non-Africans, much earlier journeys contributed significantly to our genetic and physical variety. Migrations out of Africa prior to 60,000 years ago surely were of small groups of foragers; some of them eventually left genetic traces that have come down to modern human populations. A later, major 'Out of Africa' event most likely occurred around 60,000 years ago or thereafter.
Recent genetic research has shown that modern humans interbred with other ancient hominids - not only with Neanderthals, but also with recently-discovered relatives the Denisovans (as well as with a currently unidentified population of pre-modern hominids). One estimate is that all present-day non-Africans have 1-4% Neanderthal heritage. Another estimation gives modern Melanesians an average of 5% Denisovan heritage. It’s clear that modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and perhaps other hominid groups overlapped in time and space in Asia, and had many instances of interaction.
The increasing evidence of these interactions suggests that the spread of material culture is also more complicated than previously thought. The spread of modern human behaviors didn’t occur in a simple progress starting from Africa and going east. Ecological variation needs to be considered in concert with behavioral variation between the different hominid populations present in Asia during the Late Pleistocene – with study of the interplay between genetics and environment.
Northward-traveling human foragers carried tool-kits including blades and composite tools, and also symbolic objects (beads and colorants). Their successful establishment in higher latitudes and altitudes was accompanied by straightened hair, lightened skin and increased stature. The southern route includes probable movement pathways through or perhaps around the Indian subcontinent, to mainland Southeast Asia (well, first to the now submerged Sunda Shelf, where towns may have been built over 10,000 years ago, with remains now being discovered), as far north as central China and southward into the Southeast Asian islands and on to Australasia. Questions remain as to why modern human foragers arriving in Southeast Asia left no blade or stone tools – at least few have been found. Rust, weathering, earthquakes, water damage or unwillingness to part with seriously important utensils may well have contributed. Evidence shows ground stone technologies, among other adaptations to new environments. There are also many questions concerning what happened when different foraging groups, originating in areas to the north and south, met in central China. We refer to modern Han Chinese as a single, almost monolithic culture, but it isn’t. Northerners are larger wheat eaters, Southerners eat rice and many left in a huge diaspora that produced many, many powerful business people. Mongol and Japanese influence also varied greatly, but this seems only tangential to the subject here.
Cattle, goats, sheep, and pigs all have their origins as farmed animals in the Fertile Crescent of eastern Turkey, Iraq, and southwestern Iran. Their domestication began the Neolithic Revolution, between 13,000 to 10,000 years ago. Taking root around 12,000 years ago, agriculture triggered changes in society and the way people lived. Gatherer/hunter traditions gave way to permanent settlements with better food storage. Out of agriculture, cities and civilizations grew, and because crops and animals could now be farmed to meet demand, the global population rocketed - from some five million people 10,000 years ago to over seven billion today.
In Crete, Greece, there existed one of the oldest and most powerful civilizations on earth: the Minoan civilization, which arose about 3000 BCE (perhaps before Phoenicia or Egypt although that is not clear, and the Sphinx is clearly much older). They received the name from the legendary King Minos, though some suggest that Minos was not his name but his title, like ‘Governor’ in the ancient Cretan language. The Minoan Empire was a Bronze Age civilization that arose in Crete and flourished almost 5000 years ago, until it was destroyed by volcano and tsunami in 1450BCE. The Minoans were educated, with artists, warriors and merchants, and many accomplished sailors. Their maritime empire was vast; the first large civilization of Europe. Perhaps with the arrival of new people with new technology, by 2000 BCE the Minoan Neolithic community had developed a hierarchical society with centralized administration. They were building palaces, conducting extensive trade, and producing wonderful pottery, jewelry, statues, carvings, frescoes and other artifacts. The first in Europe to use a written language, now called Linear A (finally deciphered only just recently), they dominated the Mediterranean Sea, but became something like a prototype for the Atlantis legend, leaving little but tokens of its grandeur. According to Homer, the kingdom had 90 cities, the main city being Knossos, and was governed for 9 years by King Minos, in close relationship with his father, the god Zeus. The legend of Talo—the giant metallic, robot-like being gifted to Minos by Zeus—took place during the period of the Minoan civilization. Daedalus, the man who built a ‘flying machine’ for his son Icarus, lived in Crete at this time, and designed great structures for Minos, including the famous labyrinth where the Minotaur was held captive. Theseus, son of the god Poseidon, killed the Minotaur with the help of Minos’ daughter, Ariadne. The labyrinth was considered mere legend until Sir Arthur Evans discovered the city of Knossos in Crete.
We’ve long heard of ‘barbarians’ from Altai, Mongolia, Tibet and the Caucasus invading more ‘civilized’ (agricultural) areas and dominating them for generations; one thing that we haven’t been able to do is analyze the methods of control that rulers developed and handed down, as they have, quite naturally, been much inclined to keep those matters to themselves. By the 7th century BCE, the Persians had settled in the south-western portion of the Iranian Plateau in the region of Persis, which came to be their heartland. From this region, Cyrus the Great, descendant of barbarians from we know not what mountains, advanced to defeat the Medes, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire, but Iranian elites of the central plateau reclaimed power by the second century BCE. Cyrus’s Achaemenid Empire c. 550–330 BCE), a.k.a. the First Persian Empire, was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning a million square kilometers. At its greatest extent it stretched from the Balkans in the west to the Indus Valley in the east. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralized, bureaucratic administration (through satraps under the King of Kings), for building infrastructure including roads and a postal system, an official language in use across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. Its successes inspired similar systems in later empires.
In another blog I discuss Persian influence into SE Asia (https://mythorelics.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-historical-theory-about-god-kings.html); but here is a quick synopsis (from a 2013 post included in the just referenced one, a post I deleted):
About 3000 years ago, a mountain people from either the Georgian Caucasus or the Badakshan area of Central Asia (northeastern Afghanistan and southeastern Tajikistan), an important trading center through which the “Silk Road” passed, became tempted by thoughts of wealth in lowlands to their west, which they were becoming strong enough to consider appropriating. These people of Kamboja, or Kambujiya, had strong belief in hierarchy, divine will and the right of might. To them, to be able to take was a mandate to do so, within the natural, moral compass and order of things. How could it be else-wise?
In the 9th century BCE they took Persis (now Fars Province of Iran, where Shiraz is), then Anshan (in the Zagros mountains of southwestern Iran), a quite ancient civilization, and soon the whole Iranian plateau.
The empire at around 500 BCE stretched from the Indus Valley in the east to Thrace and Macedonia; it eventually controlled Egypt and encompassed approximately 8 million square kilometers; in 480 BCE it is estimated to have had 50 million people. At its greatest extent, it had absorbed the modern territories of Iraq, Syria, Armenia, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, most of Turkey, parts of Libya, Georgia and Azerbaijan, much of the Black Sea coastal regions and extensive parts of Central Asia, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman. They may well have been the root of the Ksyatriya caste, India’s ruling and military elite who were in charge of protecting society by fighting in wartime and governing in peacetime, and Gautama Buddha was most likely one of them (see the work of Ranajit Pal, who faces much disparagement but seems to me spot on).
Some of these Persian Ksyatriyas created the Srivijaya maritime empire, a splinter group from which met other Kambojas who had come overland (eventually following the path of the Mekong) to the Tonle Sap in what was then the kingdom of Chenla (Zhenla) and what is now Cambodia. These two groups, united by racial background and world-view, would have had trouble communicating verbally after a millennium and a half of differing influences on their language, but they saw the locals in quite the same way. Together they enslaved the local aboriginals, built the extensive Angkor Wat complexes, became known as the Khom and eventually formed the core of Siamese royalty and what became Thailand. As less than 1% has great difficulty holding in slavery over 99%, when drought and the Black Plague hit about 1300 CE, the Angkor Empire started to crumble, its edifices, by the time of the rise of Ayudhaya, left as a bad memory to become over-run by jungle, and the Khom were almost forgotten. Jit Phoumisak, called by some the only Thai intellectual, wrote about this, and seems as a result to have been executed. David K. Wyatt of Cornell University, the foremost historian on Thailand, might well have wanted to write on it, too, but wanted even more to be able to return to Thailand for visits, and so did not, although some of his later writings show interest in the surrounding controversies. Srivijaya, like the Dutch and British East India Companies, merely expropriated ports, with “Factory” warehouses, and did not attempt administration of colonies (Ligor, now Nakorn Sri Thammarat a possible exception), but the Khom rulers of the Khmer (pronounced “kha-may, the first syllable just like the Thai word for slave) raised rule to an art form, beguiling a gullible public with magical incantations and other bewitchery for half a millennium.
What interests me is not a question of genetic superiority or relative mystical power, but how the divergence occurred: many taking an easier route east mostly along coastal areas with fewer large beasts (well, as I imagine it), while others went north, to mountains and greater difficulties. Could it be just that some folk are more ornery than others?
With thinking about all this, I find myself needing to question who, precisely, the Chinese are, or quite how they became that. It’s a quite a lot less clear than one might easily expect. So much presented strikes me as less than suspect: that Chinese are albino San bushmen, that the ‘Mongoloid’ type dominant in the area of China appeared only relatively recently, that DNA research without more recent epigenetic understandings tells as much as has been claimed...
In 1965 fossils were found in Yuanmou County, Yunnan, that show early Homo erectus living within today’s China as early as 1.7 million years ago. Two fossil teeth from the inside upper jaw of a young male were unearthed in the same layer as stone chips and stone tools with traces of the work of early man along a three-meter-thick layer of earth containing carbon, indicating that Yuanmou Man both made simple tools and knew how to use fire. But a site at Xihoudu (西侯渡) in Shanxi Province is said to be the earliest recorded use of fire by Homo erectus - and is dated to 1.27 million years ago. I have no explanation for the discrepancy other than the bitter ego rivalries that regularly occur within the realms of academia (and elsewhere).
Lantian man of the Chenjiawo area lived between 700,000 to 1,150,000 BP. That’s much older than the more famous Peking Man (220,000 - 580,000 years ago) found at Zhoukoudian near Beijing. Lantian Man lived in the early Pleistocene, as did distant cousins in Java and East Africa. The skull fossil of Peking Man, found in 1929 at Zhoukoudian, Fangshan, in suburban Beijing, shows a brain capacity of 1,059 ml., smaller than that of modern man (1,400 ml.). But Peking Man could speak, walk upright and engage in productive labor. Fossils of bones and teeth belonging to over 40 men and women of different ages were later dug up at the same site, as also were over 100,000 pieces of roughly processed stone tools – tools for cutting, smashing, chopping and trimming. A layer of ash six meters thick, with burned animal bones, shows that Peking Man used fire to cook food.
Homo erectus remains from Longtandong, Hexian, Anhui date from 190,000 to 300,000 years ago. Homo sapiens bones have been found and identified as from 180,000 to 280,000 years old, at Jinniushan, Yingkou, Liaoning and Tianshuigou, Dali, Shaanxi. The Liujiang hominid (of Liujiang County) has been controversially dated at 139,000–111,000 old. Dating results of Lunadong (Bubing Basin, Guangxi, southern China) teeth indicate age of 126,000 years. These were pre-modern people; modern Homo sapiens found around Salawusu, Inner Mongolia date to around 28,000 to 65,000 years ago (Laishui, Hebei), and show similar appearance to today’s people. Hetao people of the Paleolithic Salawusu Culture of Inner Mongolia left remains by Dagouwan and Dishaoguwan villages in Wushen Banner, Ordos City of Inner Mongolia; they left 35,000 year old fossilized animals and stoneware that show beginnings of modern existence.
Modern humans not distantly descended from Africans apparently first arrived at southern China about 100,000 years ago (Zhiren Cave, Zhirendong, Chongzuo City). Scientists generally accept that the origin of modern man was an African woman who lived 200,000 years ago, that some of her descendants arrived in the Middle East some 100,000 years ago, that a group of humans arrived in East Asia and Europe about 60,000 years ago, and that wherever they stopped, they wiped out earlier hominids - but often only after first mating with them. Neanderthal Man in Europe and the Peking Man in China were hominid branches that went extinct, but left genetic traces.
Homo-sapien-sapiens may have first left Africa about 60,000 BCE; but clearly other hominids left before. Early modern Africans are thought to have had two great migrations East: the ‘first’ migration, purportedly of Blacks with straight hair, took a route along the coast of Asia, then island hopped from the Sunda Shelf to Oceania and Australia, and somehow on to South America - leaving remains called ‘Luzia’ in Brazil. By reaching Australia, H. sapiens expanded its habitat beyond that of H. erectus; it’s now suggested that this happened before 70,000 BCE.
The 2nd migration event is also claimed to have been of Blacks with straight hair, but with Mongol features like those of the ‘San’ people of the Kalahari Desert. They took an ‘inland route’ through southern Asia then up to China, about 50-45,000BCE. Included within this group, somehow, were straight haired Blacks without Mongol features - called Dravidians - who settled in India and other areas of southern Asia, and also Albinos (Blacks without pigmentation), somehow motivated to seek relief from the heat and burning sunshine of southern Africa - and relief from the torment heaped upon them by more normal, yet superstitious, Africans. To me, though, accepting that high cheek-bones show connection between the San and Mongolians, half a world apart and with not much clear connectivity between, seems more than just a bit of a stretch.
The gap of about 50,000 years between homo sapiens settling Australia and then North America indicates a strong popular preference for serene southern seasides over rugged, snowy northern mountains. But it was northern mountaineers who conquered. Maybe mountains are genetically uplifting, making from mere homo-sapiens 'homo-sapiens-sapiens' with pragmatic understanding of the value of those just there to be used (like lowly sand lovers, totally expendable as shown by their tendency to over-populate!). The physically onerous background experience of the mountaineers allows that they hardly even need harden their hearts: natural ethical progress, God's Plan, survival of the fittest. And how nicely convenient, those Great Teachers that helped make the low-landers so easy to, as necessary, control (and dispose of, or redact, as it were). By which I hardly mean to imply that power-mad killings by locals of hot, low-lying areas have been rare; many forms of adversity &/or misfortune might tend to inspire callous cynicism. Nor do I know of Innuit or Lapp/Sami mass-murderers (although I suspect there to have been at least a case or two). Still, the most avaricious raiders might well have had cold mountain backgrounds or at least ancestry. Tricky to take a survey.
The Tung-tien-yen cave, Liu-chiang County, Kwangsi was discovered in 1958 to contain human remains from the late Pleistocene (Ice Age) geological epoch (about 2.5 million to 11,700 years ago). A skull from there was described as ‘Evolving Mongoloid’, but also as Melanesian or Negrito.
Modern Chinese are seen by some as a mix of Mongol-featured Blacks like the San, their Albinos, Albinos of Central Asians (who later became Europeans), and Blacks like the Jomon in Japan. But understanding just when these admixtures took place requires we know exactly what was meant by ‘Primitive Mongoloid’ or ‘Evolving Mongoloid’ and how that differs from Eskimos… When the dark, kinky-haired Asians of southern coastal areas arrived is no more clear than who the ‘Blacks with straight hair’ were, or why differing hair-types separated, either. Ethnocentrism hasn’t helped the investigations.
Tianyuan Man, who lived in China 40,000 years ago, showed substantial Neanderthal admixture. A 2017 study of the ancient DNA of Tianyuan Man found him closely related to modern East Asian populations, but not a direct ancestor. A 2013 study found “Neanderthal introgression of 18 genes within the chromosome 3p21.31 region (HYAL region) of East Asians” (sorry, but that’s beyond the scope of my understanding). Migrations eventually turned northeast to China and finally reached Japan before turning inland, as is said to be evidenced by a pattern of mitochondrial haplogroups descended from haplogroup M, and in Y-chromosome haplogroup C. Findings suggest Neanderthal ‘introgression’ occurred within ancestral populations shared by East Asians and Native Americans. One reason I wanted to put this together was to avoid terminology like ‘introgression’ and ‘dispersed out of Africa’ – which I hardly think help with clarity. I suspect ‘haplogroup’ to be an essential term, but lots of professional people simply admire terms unused outside of their profession!
Until the Neolithic era (10,000 BCE) Homo erectus and Homo sapiens lived in loosely organized packs. Fossils unearthed by scientists were likely covered accidentally. Landslides and volcanic activity are good for preservation! Only when our ancestors settled in cooperative villages and began to bury their dead did lots of remains become preserved.
Southeast Asia (Java) was first reached by hominids about 1.7 million years ago (Meganthropus); Western Europe around 1.2 million years ago (Atapuerca). Denisovan ancestry shared by Melanesians, Australian Aborigines, and smaller scattered groups of people in Southeast Asia (like the Mamanwa, a Negrito people in the Philippines) suggests interbreeding took place in Eastern Asia. Denisovans, an ancient humanlike population previously identified via nuclear DNA taken from a finger bone excavated in Siberia’s Denisova Cave, contributed some genes to living New Guineans, Australian aborigines, two aboriginal groups in the Philippines and populations on several nearby islands; they seem to have ranged from Siberia to Southeast Asia. Some in China claim them as the first modern people. It’s considered possible that they interbred with an unknown archaic human. Another enigmatic species is Homo floresiensis; exactly how and when did they get to the island of Flores (and did they somehow use boats at this very early point in time)? Who were their ancestors?
Homo erectus reached Flores, but not Australia. The species Homo floresiensis (nicknamed ‘hobbit’), found at Liang Bua in Indonesia, may have descended from a very early (before or not long after Erectus) and still unknown migration from Africa.
Clues to migrations of people predating Homo erectus keep appearing; by now, five or six sites in Eurasia span a suggested timeframe of roughly 2.6-2 million years. Recent finds at Shangchen in the southern Chinese Loess Plateau indicate hominid occupation there from 2.1 million years ago. There may have been not only dispersals from Africa, but also back into Africa, starting much earlier than 2 million years ago. The main current model, of Erectus being the first hominid to spread from Africa across Eurasia, fails to account for many recent finds.
During early hominid days, the sea level was much lower and most of Maritime Southeast Asia formed one land mass known as Sunda. Migrations seem to have gone along the coastal route to the straits between Sunda and Sahul, the continental land mass of present-day Australia and New Guinea. Still, gaps (on the ‘Weber Line’) were of 90 km wide, so the migration to Australia and New Guinea seems to have required seafaring skill. A recent study has shown that early travelers made it to Sumatra in western Indonesia between 73,000 and 63,000 years ago; this ties in well with other evidence that hints at humans reaching inner Southeast Asia some time before 60,000 years ago, (and then following the retreating glaciers north). New evidence, though, suggests humans in north Australia even 75,000 years ago – something I believe, but which remains in dispute.
Internet sources (Wikipedia especially) say: Sequencing of one Aboriginal genome from an old hair sample in Western Australia revealed that the individual was descended from people who migrated into East Asia between 62,000 and 75,000 years ago, which supports a theory of a single migration into Australia and New Guinea before the arrival of Modern Asians (between 25,000 and 38,000 years ago) and their later migration into North America. Mitochondrial haplogroups A, B and G originated about 50,000 years ago, and bearers subsequently colonized Siberia, Korea and Japan, by about 35,000 years ago. Parts of these populations migrated to North America during the Last Glacial Maximum. This migration is believed to have happened around 50,000 years ago, before Australia and New Guinea were separated by rising sea levels (approximately 8,000 years ago). This is supported by a date of 50,000–60,000 years ago for the oldest evidence of settlement in Australia, around 40,000 years ago for the oldest human remains, the earliest humans artifacts which are at least 65,000 years old and the extinction of the Australian mega-fauna by humans between 46,000 and 15,000 years ago (as happened in the Americas). Details of stone age tool use in Australia has been much debated.
Genetics of the Ainu people of northern Japan might be a key to the reconstruction of the early peopling of East Asia, as they show a phenotypical trait associated with northeast Siberians and Mongolians through a single mutation of the EDAR gene, dated to c. 35,000 years ago, but once again I sense a serious stretch of imagination.
Maybe ‘dispersals’ occurred from people fleeing the society of, and control by, others. Maybe that desire for independence was accompanied by related tendencies and idiosyncrasies. Maybe changes didn’t come one by one, but came rather, in packages, as it were, as seems to me strongly implied by epigenetics. And maybe desire to not be controlled hardly precludes desire to control. And maybe magic and/or space aliens were involved. At any rate, it seems clear to me, at least, that desire for increased sense of self-importance has limited our ability to understand ourselves.