Beachcombing and Coastal Settlement: The Long Migration from South Africa to Patagonia— The Greatest Journey Ever Made

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Barry Wood

Abstract

Although studies of prehistoric human migration now run into the hundreds, a single, chronological narrative of the peopling of the planet has not yet been presented, Most studies have been produced by specialists of a region. The need for a specific migration narrative—highlighting a primary migration route—is desirable for a coherent big-history understanding of how prehistoric Homo sapiens peopled the planet. Assembling the existing research, we follow the primary migration route from South Africa to Patagonia—a coastal trek up the coast of Africa, along the shores of the Indian Ocean followed by a circum-oceanic trek around the entire Pacific Ocean., the whole journey, with settlements established along the way, occurring over a period of 60,000 up to 115,000 years. From South Africa, now recognized as the refuge of early Homo sapiens, migration can be traced through human fossils, cave occupations, camp and work sites, shell middens, animal remains, and tool remnants. To these, genetics has added the identification of genetic markers for more accurate route determination. This coastal migration route incorporates recent archeological reassessments that have confirmed (1) the “Southern Dispersal” route out of Africa to coastal South Asia; (2) a 10,000 to 15,000 thousand year “Beringian Standstill” during the last glacial maximum; and (3) a primary “Coastal Route” down the west coast of the Americas. From this primary coastal migration route, hundreds of rivers provide resource-rich entrances into continental interiors while ocean reaches beckoned to the adventurous, thus clarifying the earliest stages of the peopling of the Earth.

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