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The Mystery of Homo Erectus' Maritime Mastery

Archaeologists debate whether Homo Erectus possessed language and sailed to remote islands. New analysis calls the theory into question. Some claim evidence of maritime mastery based on tools and collaboration.

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 · 18 Apr 2024
Homo Erectus
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Homo Erectus

Archaeologists are currently debating whether our most enigmatic ancestors possessed language. Some believe that traces of an extinct human species on remote islands suggest the ability to build boats and sail, skills that require advanced communication. However, a new analysis has identified significant gaps in this theory, concluding that the idea doesn't hold up.

Homo Erectus appeared in the archaeological record about 2 million years ago, spreading across Eurasia before disappearing just over 100,000 years ago. It has been hypothesized that this species reached islands such as Flores in the Indian Ocean and Crete in the Mediterranean, inspiring the theory of maritime mastery. However, Professor Rudolf Botha, a linguistics expert at Stellenbosch University, raises doubts about these hypotheses.

Botha questions the idea that Homo Erectus ever reached Crete, pointing to the lack of fossils of the ancient species on the island. Although some Cretan stone tools have been cautiously attributed to Homo Erectus, some scholars believe they may have been made by Neanderthals. As for Flores, the oldest human remains belong to the Hobbit-like Homo floresiensis, who may have descended from Homo Erectus or other hominids.

Botha suggests that Homo Erectus may have arrived on Flores accidentally on natural rafts, rather than deliberately building boats. The study author concludes that there is insufficient evidence to prove that the species sailed to these islands. The use of Nautical Inference as the basis for the language of Homo Erectus is therefore considered flawed.

Other researchers point to Homo Erectus' collaborative digging tactics as evidence of language, while the ability to make symmetrical tools and brain size suggest intelligence sufficient for communication.


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