Subject:      Re: ancient navigation (was: American map on Phoenician coins?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/05/17
Message-ID:   <5lkmpr$gd1$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,soc.history.ancient,,sci.skeptic

Frank Joseph Yurco ([22] wrote:
: This has been an interesting discussion about the Guanches who inhabit
: some of the Canary Islands. There seems to be no concensus as to how long
: they have been there.

Dear Frank,

Actually, I went and tried to find some more data about the ancient
Canaries. As it turns out, there's quite a debate about exactly when the
first human settlement of the Canaries took place. Some scholars maintain
it happened at around 2500 bce, based on some interesting apparent
Neolithic remains, such as rock-engravings and spiral designs. But others
point to the fact that nothing earlier than 700 bce has been carbon-dated.


: Those who have been arguing about the Phoenicians crossing the Atlantic
: are much more speculative. It is one thing to be blown to the Canaries
: and making it there in one piece, alive and well. However, as for the
: Phoenicians, to cross the Atlantic, a knowledge of their sailing
: techniques shows how absurd the proposition.

Speculative, perhaps, but certainly not absurd. As I said before, anyone
who is capable of navigating the Mediterranean is ipso facto capable of
navigating the Atlantic. And what about the ancient tin trade between the
Mediterranean and Britain? Tin deposits in Britain were the only ones
known in the ancient world, apparently. The very same sailors could easily
cross the Atlantic! (Athough this doesn't mean that they did, of course.)


: As for getting blown
: out to sea accidently, and being picked up by a transatlantic current,
: how many weeks would be required to drift across the Atlantic?

A sailboat driven by strong winds can probably cross the Atlantic in 2-3
weeks, I believe.

: Given
: that they did not stock food and water on their vessels, even if one
: drifted across, a bunch of dead bodies would arrive, nothing more.

There's been an experimental voyage by one Dr. Bombard, in the 50s, I
believe, who sailed out of England with _no supplies whatsoever_ on his
sailboat and arrived to America alive and well. He was subsisting on the
fish he could catch, and the water he could derive from that, as well as


: The Polynesians had learned to navigate by the stars, by wave patterns,
: and current patterns, and even the flights of birds, for shore birds
: differ from oceanic birds, and so, they were the ones who crossed oceans
: in antiquity. If you doubt, who first settled Madagascar? People from
: Java and Sumatra, ancestors of the ancient Polynesians.

This is all very relevant.

: In the East
: Indies, the large number of islands encouraged trans island sailing from
: very early in prehistory. There is a huge debate indeed, that Homo
: Erectus in Asia might have rafted across to Australia, as wa done later
: by early Homo Sapiens. The early settlement of Australia, that was un-
: connected to Asia even at the peak of the glacially lowered oceans,
: demonstrates that in this part of the world, humans first took to the
: seas, to cross to new lands.

And this too! Australian prehistory is the best indication of how skillful
the _very ancient_ sailors were.

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky   | "Where there is the Tree of Knowledge, there
     -=-         | is always Paradise: so say the most ancient
 in Toronto      | and the most modern serpents."  F. Nietzsche
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