Monday, December 28, 2009

266. The Baseline Scenarios -- 42: The Migration

I want at this point to move from the migrants (HMP) to the great migration they initiated (GM), begun by them sometime between 80,000 and 60,000 years ago (my estimate) with a short but hazardous trip from the Horn of Africa to Yemen, and continued by their descendants, who, according to what has become the mainstream view, made their way slowly (or possibly rapidly) across the continent of Asia along the Indian Ocean coast. I'll stick with the mainstream view for now, assuming a single Out of Africa event and a southern GM, from the coast of the Arabian Peninsula through South Asia to Southeast Asia and beyond, to Sundaland (the Malay Peninsula plus West Indonesia), Wallacea (East Indonesia), the Philippines and the Sahul (New Guinea plus Australia), eventually continuing north up the Pacific Coast, possibly all the way to the Americas.

Before considering the GM, let's review what we think we know about its progenitor, HMP (the Hypothetical Migrant Population), based on our earlier discussions of this issue (see Post 252 et seq.).

1. HMP must have been more Pygmy-like than Bushmen-like morphologicaly, but we can't be sure if they also had short stature.

2. They probably had bows and arrows, with poison tips.

3. They probably lived in beehive huts.

4. They were almost certainly hunters and gatherers.

5. They very likely would have vocalized in some form of P/B style, including both interlock and yodel, though possibly not in the more complete and complex form of their ancestors, HBP.

6. They would have had certain instrumental traditions: the musical bow, an inheritance from HBC; hocketing pipe ensembles, possibly inherited from HBC; hocketing trumpet, horn and panpipe ensembles, slit drums, simple leg xylophones, and stamping tubes, all probably representing a somewhat later development. Such instruments are found in abundance both in and out of Africa.

7. They would have had a tradition of accompanying their singing with some form of percussion, either clapping or by the use of simple idiophones, such as beating on sticks. The ancestral percussion tradition would have been extremely sophisticated and complex rhythmically, but since we find little evidence of comparable complexity outside of Africa, it's possible that the rhythmic accompaniments of HMC were less complex.

8. It seems very likely that they would have spoken some type of tonal language, since almost every language now spoken in Subsaharan Africa is tonal, including Khoi-San, often regarded as an archaic survival.

9. HMC would, in all likelihood, have maintained many if not all of the most important core values of HBC: strong emphasis placed on egalitarianism, relative gender-equality, cooperation, conflict avoidance, individualism, and the sharing of vital resources, with strong sanctions against competition and violence. Since all of the above are characteristic of so many other hunting and gathering peoples worldwide, it seems safe to infer that these values would have been inherited from HBC via HMC. We mustn't forget, however, that not all indigenous peoples value non-violence and some strongly value competition, so we will need at some point to account for this very fundamental cultural shift.

10. Since shamanism of some kind, though not always in the strictest sense of the term, is found both in and out of Africa, and is in some sense almost universal, it seems safe to infer that it was, in some form or other, an important part of both the healing practices and religious awareness of HMC.

11. Since intricate wood carving and mask making traditions are found in both Africa and among certain other groups outside of Africa, with striking resemblances in some cases between the two, it seems logical to infer that similar traditions would have been part of HMC. We can also infer, on the basis of very similar practices found both in and out of Africa that scarification, body painting, tatooing, tooth filing, and other forms of "body art," are likely to have been part of the HMC cultural "package" -- though in some cases independent invention can't be ruled out as a possibility.

(to be continued . . . )

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