Subject:      Re: ancient navigation (was: American map on Phoenician coins?
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/05/17
Message-ID:   <5lkl8t$g01$>
Newsgroups:   sci.archaeology,

Steve Whittet ([22] wrote:

: >...They certainly could do it as early as 1500 bce,
: >...and probably much earlier.
: This goes too far. There is a difference between fisherman being able
: to sail a few days out to sea and the establishment of an infrastructure
: which requires the kinds of cargo vessels which can sail in heavy
: weather on a long voyage. If you follow the evolution of boats its
: possible by 600 BC, but not much before that.

Thanks for your long but very interesting post, Steve. Obviously you
researched this subject matter in detail. As to the last bit about ancient
Europeans making it to America, I didn't mean to imply that trading links
existed, although there're some authors who maintain this, especically in
regard to the very early copper trade. Isn't it interesting that the early
use of copper started at about the same time both in the New and the Old

As far as I'm concerned, I believe that it's quite possible that there was
an early circum-Polar maritime culture consisting of tribes who lived by
the sea and on the sea. They didn't need to be pinned down to any specific
geographic location, as they could migrate at will and establish
themselves elsewhere. For them, the sea was not an obstacle, but a wide-
open and inviting highway. First sailors were navigating the oceans
possibly as far back as 200,000 years, ago... The first colonisation of
Australia, that you yourself mentioned, is the best indication of how
ancient ancient navigation was! 

This (global!) maritime civilization of very ancient past declined at some
period of time as the agricultural societies developed, and as the global
population increased. Is it possible that these ancient sailors could only
flourish in the circumstances where their shore/resupply bases were
unthreatened by the land-dwelling tribes and nations? As the global
population density increased, these "sea-peoples" would have been running
out of safe harbours where to base their maritime activities?

I suppose our deep-ingrained notions of progress rebel at the very idea
that sailing technologies flourished in distant past and then declined
over time. But such a decline is _obvious_ in Europe in the middle ages...

Admittedly much of the above is speculative, but it is based on my general
reading in this area...

Best wishes,


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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