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    Re: Navigational reinvention
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2004 Nov 25, 18:58 -0400

    Thank you for your posting -- some of which I was familiar with and some
    By way of clarification: You wrote:
    > As Trevor has pointed out, during one of the ice age periods, with the
    > coastline much lower, the gap between Asia and Australia was lessened.
    > Trevor says it was 20+ miles, another figure I have come across is 65
    > miles as the minimal barrier of water.
    My "20+ miles" referred to the Lombok Strait, apparently crossed by
    600,000. There are other and wider gaps between Lombok and Australia. I
    think the shortest crossing, at Ice-Age sea levels, did not take
    migrants east to Papua and the south but rather south from Timor to what
    is now Australia's North West Shelf but was then a wide lowland. That
    would have been about a 65-mile crossing.
    There is a shallow area near the outer edge of the North West Shelf
    (called the "Cootamundra Shoals" perhaps?) which, being within
    SCUBA-divable depths, drew an archaeological investigation in the late
    1980s or thereabouts. They didn't find any evidence of a human presence
    but that doesn't mean that some Palaeolithic hunter didn't walk the area
    long before.
    > If we look elsewhere during prehistoric times, the use of wheeled carts
    > drawn by cattle was common across Asia, India and Europe over many tens
    > of thousands of years ? miniature models of them are not rare in Russian
    > museums (I?ve seen ?em!) excavated from a variety of sites. In these the
    > ancestors of many of today?s Europeans are thought to have migrated from
    > Asia, after the glaciers retreated. Boatbuilding skills are a natural
    > progression from wagon building skills, once people settle along a coast.
    Wagon-building can only follow domestication of draught animals,
    presumably first turning the aurochs into the ox, then later the horse
    into an animal large enough to handle chariots. That must confine wagons
    to, what, the past 20,000 years? Sea-going boats extend back at least
    twice as far and maybe 30 times further. Simple boats for sheltered
    waters must have been developed considerably earlier still. Or do we
    postulate that cattle were domesticated much earlier than can be
    confirmed from the archaeological record?
    I'd suggest that wagon-building skills in many cultures were a natural
    progression from boat-building.
    My father was an architect and used to like to joke that he was member
    of the world's second-oldest profession. I, however, am not convinced
    that humans started building houses before they started building water
    craft and navigating them. Which perhaps shouldn't be too surprising:
    Biologically, we are land animals and we can exploit the resources of
    the land without needing more technology than hand tools. The plentiful
    resources of the sea, however, are essentially out of reach unless we
    have access to some sort of boat. (Consider how difficult it is to get
    yourself and a basic tool kit out to a boat on her mooring if you have
    to swim, compared to how easy it is to achieve the same thing given even
    the simplest of boats -- whether a child's inflatable or the bark
    bundle-raft which served much the same purpose before modern plastics).
    There was a strong ecological imperative driving our ancestors to
    develop boats.
    Mariners and navigators, even amateurs as most of us are on this list,
    can rightly be proud of carrying on a _very_ long human tradition.
    Trevor Kenchington
    Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus{at}iStar.ca
    Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
                         Science Serving the Fisheries

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