The maritime dispersal of Pleistocene humans

Robert G. Bednarik

The global evidence presently available for Pleistocene maritime navigation is comprehensively reviewed, and considered within the context of the relevant technologies. It reveals a pattern of widespread island colonisation during the Late Pleistocene, and of much earlier seafaring abilities in two world regions, south-eastern Asia and the Mediterranean. Sea barriers have acted as technological filters for hominids, in the sense that their crossing was only possible at specific technological thresholds. This principle is similar to the filtering effects of the same barriers on animal species, which relate to the distance a breeding population was able to cross by one means or another. To better understand the technological magnitude of these many maritime accomplishments, expeditions are currently engaged in a series of replicative experiments. The theoretical conditions of these experiments are examined. The paper concludes with the proposition that hominid cognitive and cultural evolution during the Middle and early Late Pleistocene has been severely misjudged. The navigational feats of Pleistocene seafarers confirm the cultural evidence of sophistication already available in palaeoart study.