It seems that with every new DNA-study, our deep history become more complex and more convoluted. Simply looking at the history and types of Jomon-era pottery should make us wonder at the kaleidoscopic variety of cultures that we can see inhabiting Kyushu and Eastern Honshu over the several millenia that preceded the arrival of the Yayoi… Now the DNA tells us that people from the continent were present in Japan starting around 3,000 BC – which is precisely the time of the Idojiri pottery that looks so like Chinese bronze jars of the period – and the time that Sanmai Maruyama was at its high-point.
We might guess that even the first migrations out of Africa were along the coastline: in small boats. And that from that time, people would have maintained contact along all the coast traveled… Sanmai Maruyama is a perfect example of a coastal settlement that anyone sailing along the coast of Honshu – the main island of Japan – could have found with minimal instruction… and its style of pottery is mirrored in the “Bell Beaker Culture” trading network across Europe, starting at this time.
Over and again, archeology has turned up objects that traveled vast distances – through networks of exchange that we interpret as ‘trade’ – but that could as easily be seen as ‘mutual giving’ or even as ‘sanctifying the exotic’.
And DNA-archeology turns up individuals who seem way out of place… showing us that individual people traveled the length of continents along these networks of exchange – which were also information networks, helping us cope – inter al – with the constant, gradual climate change that tree-rings and sea-levels tell us about.
The latter arrived in three waves, starting at the end of the ice age with brown-skinned, blue-eyed people from the Middle East…
And a thousand years after Sanmai Maruyama, as the world cooled, Celts inhabited the Western end of what is now the Gobi desert – towards the Eastern end of what became the Silk Road… As the landscape dried, they never left. A thousand years later, they mixed with Uighur refugees to become several of the present-day peoples of Central Asia.
And around that time, as the world warmed again, the Phoenician trading network started its great expansion. Roman historians in hindsight saw it as an ‘empire’ – the ‘Carthaginian Empire’. And linguistics tells us quite clearly that by 500 – 200 BC, Phoenicians were the overlords, traders and farmers – and fruit farmers – in coastal regions of Germany and Scandinavia, bequeathing us such words as “penny”, “plough”, “earth” and “Atlantic” – cognate with the German “Adel” and Arabic “Atalun” and the king’s name “Atlas” (all meaning ’nobility’)… and the Scandinavian runes. And they had settled en masse along the East coast of England, and in Scotland (the Picts) and Ireland, where their Punic language has continued to underlie the grammar of both English and Gaelic: which is why the faithfully translated, Hebrew-style syntax of the King James Old Testament feels so archetypal to an English speaker.
But older, still, is one peculiar feature of Celtic languages only in the British Isles: initial consonant mutation. In Welsh, for instance, “father” is “tad”, “your father” is “dy dad”, “her father” is “ei thad”, “your fathers” is “fy nhadau”… This is a very, very rare grammatical device in languages around the world – – – most languages that do this are clustered along the Atlantic coast of Europe and Africa, and they are most common in West Africa. So we can imagine that, as the glaciers retreated, between 13,000 and 11,000 BC, settlers could have come up the Atlantic coast – from whatever civilization then flourished in the lush, green pastures of the Sahara – and settled the coasts of Ireland…or maybe they were only the kings… or the respected shaman… because initial consonant mutation, from one perspective, is just about pronunciation: and pronunciation is something that often we copy from respected leaders…