Challenging current wisdom that modern
man migrated out of Africa
The speaker started by saying that he considered several
alternative titles for this presentation:
evidence of migration due to climate change in the Palaeolithic era;
modern mans cognitive abilities mature in Eurasia?
art a better yardstick than stone tool shapes for measuring modern mans
He intended to present evidence tracing art forms
representing animals of present southern African savannah in top-central and North Africa in the Palaeolithic.
Conventionally, the evolution to and movement of early
modern and modern man out of Africa has been
traced to a large extent by the degree of sophistication of stone hand tools (eg Chris Stringer). The
present wisdom is that Homo heidelbergensis evolved into early modern man in Africa
and to Neanderthal man in a cooler Europe and that early-modern humans first
arrived in Europe 40-35,000 years ago. The speaker asked whether a possible
alternative was that early-modern man migrated southwards with their cattle
through Italy and Sicily to North Africa
and presented evidence based on rock art.
Ancient carvings at Benghazi
dated at 8-10,000 years show the people are garbed, a European rather than an
African custom. There are also carvings
of a hippo and a python alongside a human head and carved heads which are not
African but European in their features.
On a hill near Benghazi is a detailed
carving of a domestic bovid, which is not indigenous to Africa. It bears a close resemblance to the
representations of aurochs and domestic bovids in the
France. Wild aurochs (Bos primigenius) were the ancestors of
modern cattle, with divergence about 7,000 years ago and domestication about
8,000 years ago. Present African cattle
(Nguni) show genetic traces from Saudi Arabia.
Conventional classification on the basis of hand tools is:
- Oldovan tools 2.5-1.5 M years;
- Acheulean tools 1.5-0.5M years;
tools (Neanderthal) mid-Palaeolithic 300,000-200,000 years;
- Aurignacian tools 100,000-45,000 years, upper
Palaeolithic in Europe and lower Palaeolithic in Africa.
Shorelines in the Palaeolithic were higher than today and
would have allowed migration paths down through Italy
and Sicily into North Africa to move away from
icy weather in Eurasia to look for food. At that time, Lake Chad
was a major lake and the North African area was not desert.
The Akakus mountain range in
has a large, wide, ancient river (wadi), which is now
dry with occasional oases. There are
major rock art finds in these mountains, eg caves in
the Mazuq area of the Libyan desert.
One example is a painted war or raid scene, which is similar to the
bushman paintings in South
The Bushman (or San) art shows the San people with short fat legs and
large posterior (steatogypia from gorging when food
is available and living on the fat reserves thus accumulated). These contrast with the long-legged and thin
armed raiders. San art has stick men and
stylised savannah animals and there is a stylised drawing of a long-legged
huntsman and horse about 300 years old.
There is also a preponderance of hand signatures.
There are rock carvings of a rhino in Natal
and polychrome drawings of eland/gazelle in South Africa but are these really
of San origin? San paintings continued
through the years, eg one of a boer ox wagon during the great trek. While this is dateable by the event it
records, the speaker accepted that it is very difficult to date rock art.
Advanced-design axe heads were found by the speaker in a
cave near Johannesburg,
which are almost identical to Mousterian tools (Neanderthal). They are made of silcrete
and have been hardened in fire and probably date from 0.5-1.0M years. He also showed what appears to have been a
millstone, the central hole being highly polished. In Libya, ground holes for grinding
corn/olives are found in the Mezzak area.
The speaker commented on the great diversity in physical
features of modern Africans.
In a cave in Mezzak, there is a
painting of hunting with dogs, the hunter being naked. Another one shows 2 lots of people, one
garbed and the other not the raiders are wearing kilts and head
adornments. One example shows domestic
herding with dogs, the men wearing kilts and a polychrome painting of a
bovid. Another shows
camels accompanied by men with headgear and pantaloons but camels only arrived
in Africa 2,500-3,000 years ago, being of
Asiatic origin. Another shows possible
traders exporting animals to Rome
(again about 2,000 years old?).
Unfortunately, much of the rock art has been destroyed by vandalism.
At Mezzak is a 3-5km-wide river
bed with occasional trees, a relic of the time when the Sahara
was much wetter than now. At 18-20,000
years ago, northern Europe was glaciated, there was tundra in France/Germany
and the Balkans and Greece
were steppes. The rock art shows a
crouching lion, the style of which is very similar, particular in the depiction
of the tensed haunches, to the raging bison from Altamira, Spain. There are also rhinos, crocodiles, deer and
domesticated bovids and one example of the joining of
two animals, showing conceptual thought.
The Libyan rock art is similar to that at Lascaux
20-30,000 years ago. It would seem that
art is a much better index of cognitive development than stone tools.
At Mezzak is a domestic farm scene
with Eurasian women. The people were
hunter-gatherers in the Palaeolithic, became herders in the Mesolithic and
farmers in the Neolithic. Mezzak also has what can be interpreted as solstice
calendars and men with animal heads upending a hippo, similar to the depictions
of Egyptian gods. This art matured in
Europe, not in Africa.
Mesolithic burial mounds are found on the floor of the wadi, made at a time when the Sahara
had become desert. Graves
dated at 6-7,000 years contained the body of a child, together with provisions
for the after-life, so religion was already well advanced.
Several authors have developed classifications of the
development of modern early man. One
example has the Camel period at 0-200 years BC, the Horse period at 1,000 years
BC and the Late pastoral period at 2,000 years
BC. Art activities have been classified
years BC wild aurochs;
years BC start of coloured animals;
years BC roundhead;
years BC polychrome art;
years BC pastoral period Mediterranean types long-limbed herdsmen of Nilo-Hamitic type;
years BC horse period
years BC Camel period
The speaker considered that a reasonable representation of
development, in years before present was:
stone tools, primitive cave art, Homo
heidelbergensis and Neanderthals,
advanced art in Europe, ice-age migration from Europe to Africa;
carved artefacts, migration to Nile
metal artefacts, migration southwards from North
polychrome art, Eurasians bring camels to Africa.
The genetic trail conventionally shows only migration out of
Africa but a possible alternative is:
Palaeolithic migration south through Italy
to North Africa;
desertification of the Sahara and migration north to Spain, east to Egypt
and south to southern/central Africa.
There were two types of migration, those of communities and
those of invading armies.
Modern man migrated south through Italy and Sicily
into North Africa then re-desertification of the Sahara
forced outward migration.
For art to flourish, a communal life-style must be present,
which pre-supposes at least 3 generations available in communities. History and training of the young is carried
out by tribal elders. Depictive art is the communications channel prior to the
development of symbols representing phonetic sounds. Art rather than tool-making appears to be a
better marker of human development.