When did people get here, and how?

You know, it’s hard to find accurate pictures of those earliest boats. So I went with this one…

I’m making a point of reading new books these days — by which I mean books I haven’t read before. For instance, right now I’m reading Theodore Rex, the second volume in Edmund Morris’ trilogy on TR, released in 2001. I’m getting to it about a decade after reading the first book, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt. But I guess that’s OK, since it took Morris way longer to get to writing it; the first book came out in 1979. I’m very much enjoying it, but at a leisurely pace.

That doesn’t mean I no longer indulge in my favorite way to waste time — reading the same books, over and over. And lately I’ve been drawn back to books about homo sapiens and how the species and our world developed. Right now, Guns, Germs and Steel is sitting on the kitchen table, and I thumb through it while eating (something I wasn’t allowed to do as a kid, but I’ve made up for that lost time).

And that got me onto this subject. I was reading a passage about the settlement of this continent, and Jared Diamond made a brief reference to archaeological discoveries that place humans here way before the Clovis culture came along. You see, the conventional thinking as he was writing was that people got here in about 11,000 B.C. Meanwhile, we have sites, including right here in South Carolina, that show indications of human presence as early as tens of thousands of years before that.

Diamond, writing in 1997 — well before some of the more startling claims about Topper — was sort of dismissive of these kinds of sites:

I wondered whether Diamond would be any more impressed by these more-recent claims. But I don’t know Diamond, and I don’t have his mobile number. So I reached out to the only archaeologist I know around here, our own Lynn Teague. I went over to her Twitter feed, and changed the subject by asking about what was on my mind. Looking back, I suppose I could have shown a little more interest in what she was writing about, but you know, the number count is limited on tweets. Lynn answered right away:

Yeah, just what I was thinkin’, Lynn. But I went on to ask…

Lynn’s answer satisfied me as much as one can be satisfied with regard to this question. Of course, that’s a minimal level of satisfaction. If I ever get a time machine, one thing I’d like to use it for would be to take a bunch of Dick and Jane books to the first modern humans just as they prepared started to break out of Africa and into Eurasia — long before they got here, by anyone’s reckoning — so that they could take up reading and writing and leave us some records.

I figure that by now, their books would be available in paperback, and maybe even free on Kindle…

6 thoughts on “When did people get here, and how?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Why do I post about stuff like this? Because this is what interests me.

    It’s not all that interests me. For instance, I pay attention to the NATO meeting. I was impressed by how my man Joe got Erdogan to get out of Sweden’s way, via months of diplomacy.

    But the toughie there is admitting Ukraine. Early in the week, I was fairly impressed with the argument Max Boot advanced (“Ukraine in NATO? My heart says yes. But my head says no“), saying no for the foreseeable future but offering Israel and Taiwan as examples of countries that aren’t in NATO, but we still have their backs.

    Made sense. And it seems the NATO members were sort of thinking along those lines when they said “not now.” But of course that ticked off Zelenskyy, although he’s backed off a little on that.

    Hey, I want the guy to have whatever he needs to push back the Russians, but is NATO membership NOW the thing?

    Frankly, I’m as uncertain about that as I am about those pre-Clovis sites.

    Maybe y’all have more deficit opinions…

  2. Ken

    Here’s one “deficit” opinion:
    Admitting Ukraine to NATO in the short term (before the war there ends) will result in either:
    1) expanding the war by involving the Western powers more directly, which is precisely the opposite of what should be a primary goal, namely containing it, or
    2) undermining NATO / Western credibility by not expanding the war, where membership is merely a symbolic gesture.
    Neither is a good outcome, therefore the wiser choice is to put membership off for another, undefined point in time. Doing so doesn’t necessarily alter our commitment, which can continue in its current form.

  3. Barry

    Sounds terribly boring. Sorry.

    I’ve been reading a book by Scott Eyman – Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise

    Excellent. Eyman is terrific, as usual.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *