The Polynesians were capable of voyaging across the Pacific to South America, and another Austronesian group made it all the way to Madagascar. This was pretty controversial until Kon-Tiki; even now, Polynesian-South American contact isn't fully accepted.
(IIRC, we weren't sure how the Polynesians even found so many islands, until an archaeologist asked a few of them and discovered that there's a simple algorithm for it: follow the birds.)
Australia had to have been sailed to from somewhere, possibly more than once, possibly intentionally.
Stone tools can be pretty good, especially obsidian. There are surgeons today who use obsidian knives.
Roger Blench has a paper on Greco-Roman lamps turning up as far afield as Palau, which implies more complex trade networks at an earlier stage than most people would think: http://www.academia.edu/9237516/The_Romans_in_Palau_how_did_...
And now, Neanderthals with boats. This isn't really new -- Homo floresiensis (the ebu gogo, maybe) had to have gotten there somehow. But it's part of an important trend.
Linguistic and other evidence strongly suggests that the Polynesian islands were settled from west to east (probably originating from Taiwan) and Kontiki drifted with the currents from east to west.
What's interesting is that the Polynesians settled the outlying islands by sailing into the prevailing winds (making it easier to return home if the failed to find land).
They used efficient outrigger canoes which could be tacked or, sometimes even better, shunted, into the wind.
They also did a lot more than follow birds, they relied on keen observation of the ocean (interference patterns in the swells caused by an unseen island), the colour of the clouds (clouds are darker underneath when there is land beneath them) and relied on a sophisticated 'star compass' for latitude navigation.
If their home island was at latitude -18deg for example, they knew which zenith stars passed above their island, and which stars set at what point on the horizon at that latitude.
So after an eastward exploration run, when they wanted to find their way home, they just kept their islands's zenith star at the zenith and sailed west with the wind till they made landfall.
Polynesian non-instrument navigation is undergoing a revival. See:
Yes, the National Geographic article / series I mentioned nearby in this thread:
says those sorts of things. So does the Morris West book, IIRC (some of them). In fact, some of the photos in the NG article show a device that may be the same as the "star compass" you mention.
A significant part of our story has simply been washed away by rising sea levels, once the Ice Age ended.
Too funny: Kon-Tiki went from South America to the Polynesian and it's only more recent research which indicates it might have been the other way around.
What we realize now is how little we know.
During the minimal sea level, the peninsula of Asia included Sumatra, Borneo, and Java, while Australia included New Guinea, and the sea almost to (but not connected to) Timor. The minor islands of Indonesia (and Sulawesi) remained disconnected from either continent. The resulting gaps, however, would have been smaller: you could have crossed the straits without losing sight of land.
The Torres Strait is full of small islands bridging the 150km gap between PNG and Australia. Not only that, but much like the Strait of Dover or the Bering Sea it was most certainly a land bridge until the holocene, and it remains extremely shallow.
(If Wikipedia is right about the time of Tasmania's separation from the Australian mainland and Tasmania was already populated at the time, the feature would've had to have been preserved on both sides of the Bass Strait for about twice the time between modern English and Proto-Indo-European.)
It isn't possible to verify a claim like this (and therefore, it also isn't possible to honestly make a claim like this...) - there are plenty of traditions that claim to draw on 70,000 years of history, but no reason to believe that they actually do.
Some versions of the Sumerian king list document that a single king reigned for 36,000 years.
Just did a quick search:
Frankly, all of the examples have a click-bait tone and deal in those topics related to "secrets of the pyramids" cable shows: controversial until proven by an amateur; science in the dark until it asks the primitive people about one "simple algorithm;" surgeons use stone age tools; Greek objects on a Pacific island (but not really).
My debunking, in order:
Yes, we now know Polynesians were long-distance intentional sea-farers, but Kon-Tiki did not prove that and was very controversial (and unscientific) in itself. Polynesian-South American contact is hypothesized but doesn't have solid evidence (sounds more neutral than "isn't fully accepted"). Currently only the sweet potato and palm tree genomics show it was likely, still waiting for artifacts or human remains that could provide solid evidence.
About Polynesian sailing, others have covered the complexity and accomplishment of their navigation, I will add that they also likely travelled seasonally: go in one season, come back when the winds shift 6 months later. Recently, the crew of the Polynesian Voyaging Society sailed around the world using these ancient techniques.
There was likely a land-bridge across the Torres Straight at glacial maximum, but not across the Wallace line further east (see the Sundaland comments). Anyway, this comment is so vague as to not really say anything.
I get the idea that we modern industrial humans under-estimate what is possible with stone-age technology and ingenuity, but the link to modern scalpels is but one minor point (that they had sharp tools). You need a lot of other properties to build things, some cultures had them available and developed them (rope for binding, cloth making, etc). One thing to remember: when Captain Cook landed in Hawaii in 1778, the Hawaiians were essentially in the stone age (though some contact with Spanish galleons or the floating remains thereof is speculated). Very soon thereafter, an ambitious local chief used western advisors and purchased guns to conquer all other islands.
You say "Greco-Roman lamps turning up [in] Palau" but the article you linked shows that it is only the design of ceramic oil lamps in Palau that might be traced back to a 6th c. bronze Byzantine lamp found in Thailand. The article itself does much to play up the sensationalist nature of Greek influence in Micronesia, but draws lots of tenuous connections between a few pottery shapes. And both the article and your short summary both fail to mention the possibility of parallel development of a basic implement (only so many ways to burn oil with a wick in a vessel). All in all, the article reads more like Popular Science (with unrelated-topless-native-woman image) than a scientific paper.
As far as the mindset goes, I’d say keep in mind that when Europeans landed in the Americas and Australia, they considered those continents to be “empty”, free for the taking. Their world may not have been so different from the first human to walk out of Africa.
The first descriptions of what's now the US east coast from explorers describe coastlines lined with fires as far as the eye could see, and suggested a fairly densely populated continent.
The descriptions from the early settlers (as you've noted) describe a loosely populated land of "savages".
I've always considered the 16th century a time of essentially apocalypse for North America. Imagine what would happen to our society if we had a 90% die-off over 100 years; even in the modern era we would probably find ourselves regressing to "savagery".
I don't think 16th century Europeans considered the Americas any more inhabited than the Moon. Native populations were just another natural resource the New World was teeming with, not "people".
Not that practice matched theory but...
Weren't they more like parents than cousins? Except for Africans, modern humans have apparently inherited genes from Neandertals and their non-European contemporaries.
But that's not "cousins", unless you breed with them.
There's no good word for it. But in the sense that an individual has parents, grandparents and so on, the great^N parents of modern Europeans include Neanderthals. No?
I'm as much a scientist as a hacker. And my right hemisphere is just fine :)
What? Cousins are descendants of a recent common ancestor (grandparent for the colloquial first/full cousin), you can breed with them but not doing so doesn't make them non-cousins.
> There's no good word for it. But in the sense that an individual has parents, grandparents and so on, the great^N parents of modern Europeans include Neanderthals. No?
Yes? But that didn't spawn a new species, Homo Sapiens Sapiens and Homo Sapiens Neanderthalensis were already separate and well-defined things when that happened.
That is, it all turns on who "our" refers to. In the article, "our" clearly refers to you and me and other humans who lived during the past few thousand years. So the article should say that Neanderthals were "their" cousins, referring to Homo sapiens sapiens living ~50 kiloyears ago.
There really should be new species names. I mean, if you're going to distinguish Homo sapiens sapiens and Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, shouldn't you also distinguish hybrids? As we do for mules, "E. asinus × E. caballus". But damn, that would distinguish those modern humans without Neanderthal ancestry, which probably wouldn't be a good thing.
For instance, the Denisovans are another archaic human population who split off from a common ancestor and then interbred with humans later on. And there was a recent paper which detected archaic DNA from an unknown source in West Africans. Given that species can typically interbreed for at least a million years after splitting from a common ancestor, combined with the fact that Africa had tons of hominids who coexisted with anatomically modern humans, we're probably going to discover that the story of human ancestry is highly convoluted.
Off topic, I'm guessing that your username is a reference to Battlestar Galactica. Yes?
No, just kind of a silly joke between me and my wife. Sorry to disappoint!
A two-off accidental stranding would be another explanation
The popculture image of grunting, snorting primitive cavemen is more fitting for Homo Sapiens than Homo Neanderthalensis.
Do you mean tunnels that are hundreds of kilometers long? Sounds interesting. Can you point us to some reading on that?
The tunnels themselves were not that long or linked up, but apparently all those that were found under Europe add up to hundreds of kilometers.
This is common to overall tribe relations. For example, Baltic and Fino-Ugric people in North/east Europe. Baltic people came as part of Indo Europeans while Fino-Ugric people lived there before that. Modern Lithuanians and Latvians have much more Fino Ugric genome in women-specific parts. Some of traditionally women arts were also carried from Fino Ugric tradition into Baltic. Conclusions are pretty clear...