According to scientist/historian Spencer Wells documentary “The Journey of Man” the worlds family tree can be traced, through genetic markers in DNA, back to a tribe of people known today as the San Bushmen of sub-Sahara Africa some 50,000 years ago.
The six billion inhabitants of the earth are all descendants of a small tribe that was forced to migrate in search of food and hunting grounds due to a dramatic change in the earth’s climate that brought about drought.
This is the first time in human history that there is evidence of humans thinking “what if?” What if we follow the food? This what if thinking is also thought to have enabled the San Bushmen to develop language that led to increased knowledge.
This episode was the first example of how, when faced with adversity, humans find a way to survive and prosper advancing the human race. A modern example would be the generation that survived the Great Depression of the 1930’s and won World War II bringing about the monumental changes to society through advancements in technology that would change the world forever.
The descendants of the San migrated up the African coast through the Middle East, down an around India and down South East Asia and across one hundred and fifty miles of water into Australia over a 5,000 year period. This route was made possible because the coast was continuous from Africa to South East Asia due to the Great Ice Age.
Wells believes that about ten percent of the earth’s population can from this first wave of migration. But what about the other ninety percent?
The second wave of migration from Africa accounts for the other ninety percent of the world population and this second wave took a different route after spending some extra time in the Middle East. This wave eventually spurred into Asia, Europe and eventually the Americas. It was during this migration that the distinctive physical characteristics occurred to help the migrants adapt to the environments into which they settled.
The Middle East is considered the nursery of civilization because this is the jumping of point from which people migrated into Europe and east to the Americas over the Baring Straight. It is estimated that it took around 800 years for people to migrate from North America to South America. In all it took about 35,000 years for man to migrate from Africa to the Americas.
The Journey of Man
The documentary “Catastrophe” shows how changes in the climate had a trickle down affect to the environment and the course of human history. One of the first places we look for evidence of a major climatic change is in the rings of trees. The wider the rings in a tree the greater the growth indicating favorable climatic conditions and the smaller the rings the less favorable climate. According to tree rings from the mid 16 th century, there was a dramatic change in the seasonal patterns indicating missed summers and extended winters. This is also supported by ancient writings of John of Aphesis and others in 535-538 AD. Catastrophe
Catastrophe So, what caused this change in the weather, volcanic activity, asteroid or comet impact? It is most likely that a catastrophic volcanic event somewhere in South East Asia led to the change in weather and seasonal patterns over the entire earth much like what a “nuclear winter” might have. The increase on cloud cover decreased evaporation, decreasing rain leading to drought. Once the effects of this climatic change were over the subsequent increase in rain lead to massive flooding and conditions ripe for disease and even plagues. The take home point is that this major climatic change also had a significant effect on human history. People starved and migrated in search of food. Major disease devastated the population. Traditionally strong empires where conquered by their neighbors leading to major shifts in global power and gave rise to new religions whose followers were looking for hope. This all changed the world forever and contributed directly to how we are today.
The documentary “Digging for the Truth” by Josh Bernstein takes us on a journey to find evidence of a thriving society that existed along the banks of the Amazon, the largest river in the world, as reported by the Spanish Conquistador Francisco Doriana in the mid 16 th century as Francisco traveled inland from the Pacific in search of the mythical city of El Dorado, the legendary “city of gold”.
Francisco Doriana isn’t the only European to have claimed to see these societies. Lt. Col. Percy Fawcett, a real life “Indiana Jones” from the Royal Geographic Society, spent some 30 years in the early 1900’s searching. He disappeared into the forest never to be seen again, trying to find these people who where so prolific along the shores of the Amazon according to Doriana.
Artifacts found in the region indicate that advanced civilizations had occupied the shores of the Amazon some 1500 years ago according to carbon dating of the pottery found there.
There is also evidence that the ancient inhabitants had developed sophisticated soil management. Possibly using a slash and burn technique in a sustainable way to produce terra preta or black earth that allowed them to cultivate the land that was not naturally fertile.
Josh Bernstein visited the Kuikuru village for clues on how the ancient Amazonians might have lived along the shore. In the village he found that their way of living had not changed much for hundreds of years. They had traditional ways of storing food, trapping fish and cultivating crops. They also had a distinct class social system and a well-developed system of roadways that connected different areas of the community.
Lost Cities of the Amazon There is evidence that suggests that this is how it could have been 1500 years ago. With some 19 villages arranged in two large clusters with a hub and spoke type configuration. The villages where one half to two miles apart connected by straight roadways as much as 150 feet wide and some with curbs and other features that suggest a very complex design and sophisticated knowledge of mathematics and other sciences. This is according to Michael J. Heckenberger an archeologist from the University of Florida who has led research in the area.
The Grand Tour: Europe The Grand Tour: Turkey to Africa
In and around 1492, the European continent was undergoing a tremendous change politically with fragmented city-states being ruled by leaders of varying abilities. 1492 marked the beginning of many events that would change the political and landscape and balance of power for centuries to come.
Pope Alexander the VI began his reign
Ferdinand and Isabella ruled a united Spanish peninsula
Muscovy claimed himself Czar of Russia
Sweden, Denmark and Norway united on the Kolmar Union
In 1492, the Muslim religion had establish itself solidly in Eurasia and North Africa with the Catholic Church systematically loosing territory with the exception of Granada.
Columbus may have done more than anyone since Jesus Christ Himself, to spread and or save Christianity by his exploration and eventual conquest of the Americas and the bringing of Christianity to the New World.
North Africa was solidly anchored in the Muslim religion under the rule of Sultan Qu’it Bay and continued to make strong inroads into the south of Africa.
The Grand Tour: South Asia The Grand Tour : China and Japan
Muslims dominated most of India and were well represented in the rest of Asia. “Their liberal religious policy was two hundred years in advance of the later "enlightened" societies of the West: Indian courts were open not only to orthodox Muslims and Hindu Brahmans, but to Parsi priests, Jain saints, and later to Christian missionaries.” (The World in 1492)
The countries of the Southeast Asia were mostly Buddhists. The Vietnamese were extending their conquests south to Binh Dinh.
Islam spread to the Malay Archipelago and to port Malacca, known as one of the greatest ports in all of the world. Islam was also making headway into the Javanese trading ports and the Spice Islands.
The Ming Emperor Xaio-Zong, was in a struggle with Confucian politicians in 1492 China. China had the potential to expand much more than any European power of the time, but instead turned to Isolationism because of internal political dysfunction.
The Chinese culture of the time favored social harmony and order instead of amassing wealth as they had the means to provide for themselves at the time.
The Japanese continued to remain independent of the Chinese in the 15th century. At this time, the ruling clan was in transition from the Great Lords to warlords.
1492 found Ahuitzotl, the eighth leader of Aztecs, extending his confederation through Mesoamerica. The capitol of Mexico-Tenochtitlan was the most sophisticated aquatic city in the world. But the Aztecs remained land lovers and did not advance in maritime navigation.
The Mayan civilization had no centralized authority in 1492, which helped the tribes hold off the Spanish until 1700. It is said that the Mayans had one of the mast artistic societies on the globe.
The Incas expanded greatly in the fifteenth century under the ruler Tupac Inca Yupan-qui and unified the empire from present day Columbia to Chile, over 2,500 miles.
Though the Peruvians, Mayans, and Aztecs possessed naval prowess, there is no evidence that they ever crossed the Atlantic.
The Grand Tour: The Western Hemisphere
Food, the basis of all humankind is comprised mostly of wheat in western Eurasia, rice in eastern Eurasia and corn in the Americas. This has greatly influenced how society has developed.
Europeans developed into independent and aggressive people because their way of life was always in doubt and they were at the mercy of the weather for their crops and transportation.
China and other parts of Asia are well suited for growing rice which provides more food per acre that any other food.
Corn formed the early Americans and their complex creative societies because it required little time to cultivate freeing the people to build and advance technologically.
The Staff of Life
The European Voyages and How the World Changes * The Shape of the World
Just over 500 years ago no one nation had been able to connect to all the great continents via land or sea travel. This was more important to some countries than other. For example, China was very much ahead of the technological curve and if they had the will to, they could have been the first to travel to all the great continents. As compared to the rest of the world at this time, China did not use its gains to colonize or conquer because that was not their culture. Had the more hostel or ambitious cultures such at the Europeans or Muslims had this kind of technology, the worlds history would have be very different indeed. During this period in history exploration with accurate map making and naval prowess was the true thing that could make a country stronger and richer in their search for spices, silk and gold (see pictures above).
Explorer Vasco da Gama followed Bartolomeu Dias’ route down to what is now Sierra Leone and from there set out on what was to be the longest open water voyage of the time travelling over 6000 miles over three months around the Cape of Good Hope utilizing the South Atlantic Westerlies to make the trip. He then went on to Malindi on the east coast of Africa were he picked up a pilot who led him the rest of the way to India where he established a trading post.
Ferdinand Magellan was also on a quest to find a more efficient route to the lands of spices, gold and silk but he chose to use a westward route and subsequently almost became the first person to circumnavigate the globe. He was the first person to lead an expedition sailing westward from Europe to Asia and to cross the Pacific Ocean.
Vasco De Gama’s route
The European Voyages and How the World Changes * The Columbian Exchange *An export from the Americas to the old world was the potato and this was a game changer. Tubers are easily grown and cultivated and are a nutrient dense food. Columbus brought back potatoes to Europe and it soon became a staple of the poor and working class. It was especially important in Ireland where it accounted for a sharp increase in the population. But in 1845, the great potato famine devastated Ireland and in just a few years so many people died that bodies where buried in mass graves. This event drove many Irish to immigrate to America thus starting the tradition of Irish political involvement. *Sugar cane was mostly responsible for the increase in slave labor needed to harvest and grow the cane in the Caribbean for the Europeans. *Corn was a important crop because it facilitated the slave transportation out of Africa and to the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean. *Is responsible for the bringing together of the old and new worlds through the importing and exporting of foods and animals that facilitated the dynamic increase of human population and technological advances never before seen in human history. *It started with the introduction of horses into South America by Columbus on his third trip, his first actual landing on the South American continent. The horses soon migrated to North America and the Great Native American horse culture, short though it was, began. *Unfortunately, this was the beginning of the end. Cattle soon rained supreme and the buffalo was nearly extinct in just one generation. Along with the decrease in the buffalo population, the Indian population decreased as well.