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One hundred thousand years ago, Homo sapiens left Africa and headed towards Lebanon along the Mediterranean coast. Some settled there while other small groups continued migrating north. Around 71,000 years ago, the Sumatra volcano erupted. The Great Ocean Conveyor Belt was disturbed and as a result, the temperature of the planet dropped nine degrees and a mini-ice-age began, lasting for almost 1000 years: A devastating event for Homo sapiens, for only a population of about 5,000 individuals remained, some of whom were still living in the on the east shores of the Mediterranean. The cold temperatures caused a scarcity of game and crops, and as a result, many fishing communities along the coast of the Mediterranean developed.
The Homo sapiens stock that was still living in Africa kept expanding along the East African Coast . Sixty thousand years ago, and because of the low level of the ocean, some of these African groups crossed Bab el Mandeb into the Arabian Peninsula, and from there crossed into Persia and India from the Strait of Hormuz . The stock split and a group followed the coast and reached Australia around 10,000 years later. Forty thousand years ago, the European stock split from the Eurasian stock at the intersection of the two continents. The Asian stock reached as far as Siberia . Thirty-five thousand years ago, modern humans reached Europe and the earliest cave was found in Fumane . Thirty thousand years ago, the biggest mass migration occurred from parts of the Middle East into India . Fifteen thousand years ago, the Northeast Asians migrated into North America through the Bering Straits, and 10,000 years ago, agriculture began in the Middle East . Jericho and Jbeil are attributed with the earliest agricultural settlements in history, and with the rise of the Neolithic man. (See Map of early Human Migrations).
The misconception, and at times, the advertisement of another culture coming to the land of the Phoenicians and populating it, does not sustain any scientific data. Actually, scientific data would disagree with such an assumption, knowing that the end of the Ice Age is dated around 14,000 years ago. This piece of information gives us a picture of what the geography looked like in Lebanon , as well as its weather. The only way to pass through modern day Lebanon was to follow the coastline of the Mediterranean because during that age, the mountains of Lebanon were impassable. They were snow-covered throughout the year, and not only one set of mountains had to be passed, but two. This year round snow cap was the legacy of the Ice Age that started 70,000 years ago. This meant that the only way to enter the Lebanese coast, and have access to Lebanon , was either from Turkey southward, or Palestine northward. The only other possibility was through the sea, but navigation on such a large scale would not happen for another 10,000 years.
There is further evidence that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted in Lebanon until the extinction of the latter, giving a picture of the adequate weather and resources that was available there. A Japanese expedition conducted in the 1960's, identified a couple dozen sites where Neanderthal artifacts and remains were identified, the most important being at Wadi Keoue in the North of Lebanon. Many artifacts were found and documented during this expedition.
The proper scientific framework has established its broad outline for the understanding of human migrations. We must pursue and develop the research of our origins in order to intelligently contribute to the history of the migration of human race and its development. The east Mediterranean coast is key in the understanding of the earliest human migrations of the first stock that left Africa . The Phoenician culture is one of the earliest cultures to flourish on these shores, and therefore, is also key in shaping such an understanding.
We cannot ascribe to unattested records of history, and we cannot accept historical statements at face value, even if it comes from Herodotus, or any other historical and non-historical figure. We cannot ignore the fact that the Phoenicians were indigenous to their land, and this should be our starting point to setup the proper framework for historical research and the study of the Phoenician culture at large.
In conclusion, we can say that the Phoenicians came to the shores of Lebanon from somewhere else. It was Africa , tens of thousands of years ago, and from the stock that remained here, the Phoenician culture developed. Lebanon is one of the most important locations to understand the beginnings of this migration and its development, and therefore should begin to bare the fruits of this research. The Phoenician culture is a very important intersection to understand the development of the Human race, and in the light of the new information, it is no surprise that this piece of land is attributed with the rise of the Neolithic Age. These were the first adventurers that migrated from Africa at the dawn of man.
by Maroun Kassab
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