Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Neolithic snapshot

During the migrations mentioned by Oppenheimer that took place between about 8000 and 6000 years ago, shell mound cultures appear in three major distant locations. The Ubaid sites have already been mentioned previously and we will investigate them in detail later.

Shell mounds also appear to the north in the Bering Sea and Arctic regions. Decades ago, Soviet prehistorians had suggested that Proto-Eskimo and Proto-Inuit people had been influenced by people from the southern Pacific and Southeast Asia, or that they had even originated from those regions.

They found many common items in the cultural inventory of these people that had southern correspondences including toggling harpoon heads with sockets and barbs at their base and slate points unique to the region.

S. I Rudenko noted that the distribution of these toggling harpoons matched the distribution of shell mounds both in the north and the south.

Rudenko states: "Eskimo sea-mammal hunters appeared in the Bering Sea region comparatively late and were really the wedge dividing related peoples, alien to them, of northeastern Asia and northern America, they apparently came to the Bering Sea region not from the north but the south, not from Asiatic Asia but from Asia's insular southeast."

The sea vessels of these Arctic peoples also shared morphologies with the south. Indeed, experts on maritime history like James Hornell have suggested that the bifid double construction ship found in the circum-Arctic regions was of southern Pacific origin.

M.G. Levin, another researcher specializing in Northeast Asian ethnology writes: "It was not difficult for these coastal peoples of the Pacific to adjust to the conditions of the Far North, since they had long practised fishing and sea-mammal hunting, they knew how to build the warm semisubterranean houses necessary in arctic surroundings, and finally they were excellent seafarers for whom it was easy to move along the coast and settle the Far North. (Okladnikov, 1941c, pp. 30-31)"

In addition to the Persian Gulf and Eskimo/Inuit region, shell mounds also appear on the Atlantic coast of Europe. Here also, in mesolithic Denmark, we find the bifid boats that Hornell and others had given a South Seas origin. In addition at a latter date we find the uniquely SE Asian/Pacific technique of lashed-lug construction in Scandinavia.

We will examine each of these region in more detail later in this blog.

Paul Kekai Manansala


Levin, M. G. _Ethnic origins of the peoples of northeastern Asia._ Edited by Henry N. Michael. [Toronto] Published for the Arctic Institute of North America by University of Toronto Press [1963]

Hornell, James, _Water transport: origins and early evolution_. Newton Abbot, David & Charles, 1970.