The Mysterious Ainu

Loren is on the road, traveling in California. Today’s guest blogger is Brent Swancer.

The Mysterious Ainu
by Brent Swancer
December 6, 2008.

The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan, inhabiting the Northern island of Hokkaido as well as the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. Their name means “human”, or more accurately the opposite of the gods that inhabit all plants, objects, and animals in their heavily animistic religion.

Thought to once inhabit all of Japan, the Ainu were pushed northward by the influx of immigration from Asia that occurred primarily during the Yayoi period of Japanese history around 2,300 years ago.

The Ainu have faced a long history of oppression and hardship. Throughout the modern era, they have faced active assimilation, forced labor, and the repression of their cultural identity and customs. During the height of the Japanese government’s assimilation policy in the 1800s, the Ainu were banned from observing daily customs and were labelled as “former aboriginal people,” and it was not until 1997 that they were even recognized as an indigenous minority group at all.

It is estimated that there are around 20,000 to 60,000 people (many of mixed race) who identify themselves as Ainu today, although the accuracy of these numbers is questionable due to the fact that for a long time Japanese census records made no distinction between Ainu and ethnic Japanese, as well as the tendency for many to hide their ancestry due to rampant discrimination in some areas. There could be as many as ten times more than that according to some.

Shown is an Ainu woman with a traditional lips tattoo. Almost all woman had these tattoos done upon reaching adulthood, which was 15 or 16 by Ainu standards. The tattoos are believed to increase beauty and gain better prospects for marriage, as well as being a sort of rite of passage into womanhood.

Besides the political controversy of the plight of the Ainu people, they have also raised other debates within anthropology and hominology. One such debate is that of the very origins and history of this people. Ainu are very different in physical appearance than ethnic Japanese and other Asian peoples. Taller than average Japanese, the Ainu typically have a long skull, light complexion, heavy facial hair, and Caucasian features. Their hair tends to be thick and wavy, and body hair is also more pronounced. Aside from the physical differences, the Ainu language is also quite unique, showing no relation to Japanese or other Asian languages. These unique differences have posed an often debated mystery. Who are the Ainu and where did they come from?

Early anthropologists were fascinated by the Ainu and made much of the physical differences that existed between Ainu and Japanese. These early researchers often exaggerated these physical qualities, and suggested that they were evidence of Caucasian ancestry. The Ainu were said to be a sort of “lost Caucasian race”. However, there is no genetic evidence of this and it is considered an outdated theory. The mystery remained however, since it was obvious that the Ainu people and ethnic Japanese were of different origins.

There are many current ideas on the origins of the Ainu people. Some suggest that the same prehistoric group of people that produced the Australian aborigines, a sort of “Oceania race,” also inhabited the Japanese archipelago before the Jomon period of Japan (14,000 to 2,500 years ago). This is based on fossils dating back 10,000 years that seem to show similarities with the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand.

Others say that the Ainu are descendants of people of mongoloid stock from Northeast and central Asia, who migrated to Japan before the Jomon period. Genetic evidence seems to support this theory, since DNA tests on Ainu showed that many showed a relationship to the people of Tibet and the Adaman Islands of the Indian Ocean, and one in eight Ainu men were shown to exhibit genetic traits most common to the Russian far east and Mongolia.

There are other ideas too, such as that the Ainu represent a completely unique group of people, or an ancient Asian race, but the question of the exact origins of the Ainu remains unresolved.

The mystery of the Ainu does not end with their origins, however. One hotly debated topic that only adds to the mystery of Ainu history is the notion that they may have even been among the first peoples to inhabit North America. The epicenter of the debate swirling around this theory, and the best evidence for it, is a curious piece of fossil evidence called the Kennewick Man.

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Read part II on this contribution on Monday, “The Ainu and The Kennewick Man” by Brent Swancer, December 8, 2008.


Brent is shown with his beautiful family – wife Chie and his daughter Jasmine – along with an unidentified cryptid spotted at the 25th celebration of the Japanese version of Disneyland. Unaware of the behavioral characteristics of this cryptid, Brent is very protective of his daughter, who, being a good cryptozooologist-in-training, has grown cryptic ears to blend into her surroundings. (Caption by Loren Coleman.)

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.

Leave a Reply

  1. Nothing new here. It is long ago since I read in Japanese newspapers that the Ainu came from Russia.

    However, it is tragic that the Japanese government never took proper action to save their culture and language. It reminds me of the Sami people (or as we call them, Lappar) in Scandinavia. Well, it reminds me of how all people have been treated by the ruling people (English in India, Europeans in South-America et cetera)

  2. I seem to remember reading that some of the indigenous peoples of Japan consider themselves a remnant population of one the Lost Tribes of Israel. Could there be a correlation there?

    A recent Nova program studied the mummies of the Gobi desert and found them to be Caucasian in ancestry; complete with tartan clothing and red hair. Some traditions hold that these Scythian nomads could be remnants of the first dispersion from around 750BC. Would it be too much of a reach to think that a nomadic tribe of traders could end up in northern Japan?

    The physical features of these people seen in the photographs sure make a case for Caucasian ancestry. There is so much we don’t yet know about the iron age/ bronze age travels of our predecessors. Interesting read. Thank You.

  3. This was a very interesting article. I can’t wait for part 2. Is the woman’s tattoo supposed to look like a mustache?

  4. The notion that any one race had to be the original anywhere based on the fact that that group was the ones European explorers met is so stupid, yet many hold onto that idea fiercely. Recently, archaeologists discovered a mixed race on the other side of the Himalayan mountains. Apparently a group of nomadic shepherds (maybe goat-herders) made their way from Romania east, to the northwestern border of Tibet and China. This happened sometime around 2 to 3 thousand B.C.
    We also have evidence that the Phoenicians did actually sail around the world long before King Solomon hired them for his navy. Many of the seafaring people owe them their lineage and knowledge of sailing.
    With that said, who is to say that there wasn’t a group based out of the Pacific ocean that inhabited most of the coastal regions, Australia being the only one not re-inhabited by the Asian groups. Perhaps they actually did originate from Australia, had their version of the renaissance and explored the Pacific rim, setting up colonies in suitable areas. Then the whole of that group had their dark ages, leaving the colonies to fend for themselves. Some thrived, until others came and drove them off. Others didn’t survive without contact with the rest. Therefore, they were forgotten by history (mostly written by europeans and those who drove them out).

  5. This is very interesting, I have always wondered what – if any – genetic link there is between the Ainu and the Native Americans. Though I’ve never seen any specific DNA study that addresses this.

    The origin, location, and historical movement of predominant Haplogroups is fairly well know, so I wonder where the Ainu fall into that picture? Is that they share some DNA with the certain Asian peoples, or do they share the same Haplogroup? That’s a rather important distinction.

  6. Very interesting. I have long been fascinated by the Ainu, and welcome this. One of the things I have found intriguing about them is their relationship with bears. This leads me to suppose that there might be a secondary reason for the author to include the photo above, namely as a subtle reference to the Ainu culture. I look forward to the next installment of the article.

  7. mystery_man: you’re getting less mysterious by the minute! Watch that, guy! lol

    Great pieces you put up here. Glad we have a man in Japan! It has a fascinating natural history that has obviously done much to further the national sensibility toward nature. You provide a great window. Thanks!

  8. Very interesting theories on the Ainu origins. I’m a bit of a romantic and always thought they were Celtic due to some of the textiles and cultural practices.

    Very much looking forward to reading part II.

  9. There is scattered evidence that caucasian people lived throughout much of Asia, west and north of old China proper. You have the mummies in East Turkmenistan dressed in a fashion similar to the Saami and Suomi, you have indication in legends predating the great volkswanderuung that occurred towards the end of the western Roman empire. And you have the Ainu, who have suffered much forced genetic mixing over the past 2300 years. The anime movie Princess Mononoke draws from that, in part.

    The first North Americans while caucasian in feature like the Ainu, nonetheless show strong cultural connection with Europe as is seen in the spear-points they used, and the use of red ochre in burials. That doesn’t mean that those ancient Europeans were blond, blue-eyed folk, though the genetic contribution of the neandertals may indicate that they would have been. Remnant populations of the Euskadi, Tuareg and Saami don’t typically have the neandertal fair hair and green eyes.

  10. Excellent post. Always found the Ainu to be quite interesting. As an aside, around the time of the second Godzilla film, Toho made a film that featured a sasquatch like creature that terrorized the Ainu. I hear that the film is now banned in Japan due to it’s less than flattering portrayal of the people.

    Too bad like so many indigenous races they have faced their share of hardships.

  11. There are a lot of anomalies like the Kennewick Man (and several other finds) that can not be explained by current theories. Usually anomolies end up on dusty shelves in the storeroom of some museum. Of course, you can’t do that with living beings and they stand as evidence that scientific theories may not be as concrete as most would like to believe.

  12. I’ve also had a longtime interest in the Ainu, especially their culture and religion. I’m especially intrigued by the possibility that the Ainu may represent a remnant of a circumpolar hunting culture dating from Paleolithic times. Their Bear Ceremony seems to me to be similar to the way that cave bears were probably worshipped by some peoples. Also, like the Lapp peoples and Inuit, and some Siberian peoples, they used dogs and dogsleds.

    Perhaps the Ainu are among the people from whom Caucasian and Mongolian races emerged. It had not really occurred to me before reading this article that the Ainu share some physical similarities to aboriginal Australians, but that is so. Prehistoric people traveled much more widely than we know. I believe that exploration and nomadism are traits that help to define our species.

  13. I’m glad everyone here likes my post! The Ainu people are fascinating to me and I’ve had the good fortune to talk to some.

    A few responses to some points made.

    Storfoot- The newspaper articles putting forth the hypothesis alleging that they came from Russia are dealing with just that. A hypothesis. There have been good articles put out on the other ideas I’ve mentioned as well. The genetic evidence collected so far points to Mongolian or far eastern Russian origins, but the exact origins have not been resolved as of yet, and there is still debate amongst anthropologists on this point. The origins and history of the Ainu remain somewhat of a mystery.

    cmgrace- I don’t think that the lip tattoos are really meant to look like moustaches, they just end up looking that way to non Ainu. They are a decorative tattoo that if you could see if you could see it more clearly up close, you would realize that some of them include intricate designs. In more modern times, many Ainu girls have skipped getting the tattoos done in order to blend in more with Japanese society, but there was once a time when the tattoos were done by almost all women, and those who did not have them were thought to be less attractive and have a lower chance of getting married.

    Ceroill- Yes, the Ainu had a very strong relationship with bears. Their religion is highly animistic, with all animals, objects, and plants having corresponding spirits, so all of nature was highly revered by the Ainu. The bear was considered the most respected and powerful animal, and many Ainu rituals and customs revolve around the bear. Some of these old customs are extinct in practice.

    The practice of “iomante”, for instance, is no longer practiced today. It involved the public sticking to death of a bear. The reason for this was that since bears were such a powerful god, it was thought that prolonged torment was needed before death to ensure that their spirit could return to the spirit world. There was also the “bear cult” practices that some readers here may have heard of. A prized possession on any hunt was a living bear cub. This cub would be raised amongst the villagers as a member of the village, usually by a tribeswoman, becoming accustomed to human contact. When the bear turned 3 years old, it would then be ceremoniously sacrificed and its meat, skin, bones, pretty much everything would be used. Items made from the bears killed in this way were thought to hold great power.

    shumway10973- The early explorers and anthropologists who studied the Ainu went through great lengths to try and prove a Caucasian link with the Ainu. It really is amazing how hard they tried to shoehorn this people into the explanation that they wanted. They were simply convinced that the Ainu must be Caucasian.

    HOOSIERHUNTER, others mentioning the Kennewick man- Yes, wait for part 2 of my article, where I will be talking about the Kennewick man.

    DWA- Yes, I’m going to have to change my name to “Sort of Mystery_Man”. :) Anyway, thanks for the compliments. I will keep trying to provide quality guest blogs as long as people want to read them.

    As for hardships faced by the people, many do not realize that until recently, the Ainu were not even officially recognized as an indigenous minority. Even then, many Ainu still hide their heritage and assume Japanese names in order to avoid discrimination. Very few of them remain in Hokkaido living by the old ways of life, many of their customs are being forgotten by the younger generations, and there are only around 14 living native speakers of the Ainu language left. It is very sad.

    Some here might be pleased to know however, that there is a recent renewal of interest in the Ainu people, and there are Ainu groups that are pushing forward trying to raise awareness of the culture and language, as well as seeking repatriation from the Japanese government or at least an apology for how they have been treated. There are some Ainu language classes I have heard of popping up, and in Tokyo you can sometimes see Ainu dance groups or craftsmen promoting traditional dance and goods.

    Anyway, stay tuned for part 2!

  14. @Uriah: Ainu belong to the Y-haplogroup D genetic family.

    They’re definitely not Celtic (I wish people would stop trying to link them! there’s simply no evidence, and the genetics refutes any connection) or European. The Ainu’s shamanic culture has a lot in common with Siberian and Mongolian groups, which strengthens the genetic evidence and makes a case for them migrating from Mongolia and Siberia (the Taklamakan desert maybe? It was once temperate with forests and rivers). The tattoos, particularly women tattooing their upper lip, instantlt reminds me of Polynesians and the Maori of New Zealand who have similar tattoo customs. Polynesians’s origins are in the northern Philippines, and this makes the Ainu well-placed to have the same Pacific ancestry. So perhaps their origins lies in the Pacific Ocean to the south?

    And then there’s the likelihood that the Jomon were Ainu, who were pushed north to Hokkaido by the Yayoi, migrants from the Korean peninsula. It makes sense in my opinion, but there’s still many differences between the Jomon and Ainu, with many unanswered questions and it’s still a mystery. PBS has a great feature on the Ainu and Jomon.

    Back to the Polynesian link, it’s worth noting submerged stone circles off the coast of Taiwan and southern Japan that are identical to stone circles found in Hokkaido. I’m not talking about Yonaguni or stone circles like Stonehenge, but smaller, humbler constructions. Maybe the origins of the Ainu are lost beneath the ocean.

  15. Great article Brent! You know, I had thought that Kennewick Man’s DNA had come back related to the Aniu, but now I can’t find that information or where I thought I had read it. I hope you can clarify that issue in your next article.

  16. Yume- It is true that there are those who believe that the Ainu are the direct decendents of the Jomon people, who were the first major culture in Japan that we have any real good information about. However the links are far from straightforward. Certainly morphological evidence show a stronger link between Ainu and Jomon than there exists between Jomon and ethnic Japanese, but the exact relationship between them is still rather mysterious.

    One thing that seems certain is that Ainu culture bears some clear differences from Jomon culture and there has also been a lot of very interesting archeological evidence showing the differences between the Ainu and the Jomon. One example is the significant differences in the design of pottery and other items found at Ainu archeological sites from those found in Jomon sites. It is thought that in Hokkaido, there developed a culture called the “Satsumon culture,” and is seen as a sort of transitional culture between Jomon and Ainu cultures. It is thought that Ainu culture developed out of this Satsumon culture with influences from the the culture of Okhotsk. This Satsumon culture evolved over time before becoming the Ainu culture, and is quite different in some ways from the Yayoi and Jomon cultures that proceeded it.

    There is probably some connection, but the links between Ainu and the Jomon people are often debated and it has not been conclusively resolved just to what extent the relationship between the two reaches. Some of the anthropological and archeological debates on this are quite interesting.

    The link between Ainu and prehistoric Pacific people has been proposed on many occasions. Some think that the Jomon people themselves were perhaps descended from the same Pacific people that developed into the Australian aborigines. During the Yayoi period, when migration from Asia was heavy, perhaps these people were pushed into Hokkaido where the Yayoi did not reach due to the harsh climate, and developed into a unique culture. It seems at least possible that it was the effect of several different influences during these migrations and interactions that led to the Ainu culture.

    Anyway, the connection between the Jomon and the Ainu is still not clear cut or completely understood, but there are some interesting studies being done along these lines.

  17. I found this post to be quite fascinating. My Japanese mother used to tell me about the Ainu and tried to explain their differences. She did mention the Ainu as the “original” people of Japan and their possible connection with Siberia or Mongolia. She mentioned a family suspicion that her grandfather may have been descended from these people, even though he lived his full life as “ethnic Japanese”. From the one photo I’ve seen of him, his physical appearance and features are not the same as what you would considered Japanese. He was much larger in stature with a thick head of hair and more square-like features which seem to resemble those of the Russian/Siberian people. Hence, my interest and curiosity of the history of these people even though it is all just family speculation at this point. I look forward to Part II of this topic.

    This is my first post to Cryptomundo, as I’m generally a lurker and read all the various, interesting subjects on this site. I am most fascinated with the Bigfoot phenomena and, of course, anything that relates to cryptic mysteries. Thank you!

  18. Thanks for the great post, mystery_man. I only got to study ancient Japan for a few weeks, and it was all a blur. Is it true that the only thing we know of the Jomon is their pottery? I think their name is actually the term used for their style of pottery.

    Hopefully Nationalism and racial politics (trying to create a pure Japanese history not associated with Yayoi and Korea) is disappearing from the ranks of Japanese archaeology and anthropology. It’s ugly, and it was seriously damaging proper research of Ainu, Jomon and ancient Japan.

    Remember the hoax scandal of 2000? An amateur archaeologist fooled everyone with his amazing Jomon ‘discoveries’. This scandal, and nationalism, has really messed up Japanese archaeology, but I’m sure it’s recovering. I hope it is. The Ainu are almost gone, their language will definitely disappear soon, and it’s a situation faced by many around the world, from Gaelic Ireland to Native America and aboriginal Australia. Not everything can be learned from digging in the dirt — we learn from the people themselves who are still here today, and we need to protect them and support them.

  19. Ainu…An…Anu (Hittite: Kingship in Heaven):
    “Let there listen the gods who are in Heaven,
    And those who are upon the dark-hued Earth!
    Let there listen, the mighty olden gods.

    … “For nine counted periods, Alalu was the king in Heaven.
    In the ninth period, Anu gave battle against Alalu.
    Alalu was defeated, he fled before Anu-”

  20. The circumpolar hypothesis is interesting, especially when you consider the former extent of the Ice.

    In spite of what is presently Politically Correct in anthropology these days, there is but one living human race, and ethnotypes are very superficial, genetically-speaking. I think we will continue to find (and suppress?) the evidence that humans know a good thing when they see it – and feel free to reject what they -don’t- like – and as a result, there has been much more cultural and genetic diffusion over the past several thousands of years than is PC to acknowledge.

    Blue eyes, like green eyes, blond and red hair are genetically recessive and thus tend to disappear in a population fairly quickly. They are mutations that arose in isolated populations. There is some benefit in low insolation environments, but the circumpolar peoples seem to show that it isn’t very important. From what I’ve read, red hair and green eyes may have come from the Neandertal, in spite of a positional transposition, and blue eyes and blond hair from an unknown group north of the Caucasus or mountains of Ararat. If the Bell Curve is to be believed, these ar mutations that make pale-faced people exceedingly average, nothing special. :-)

  21. Yume- Well, I’m not exactly an expert here either, it is just a topic for which I have a great amount of interest and have spent a lot of time studying. I’m very happy that you are interested as well.

    Jomon actually means “rope pattern” or “cord markings”, which describes the distinctive markings made on their pottery using ropes, which they were also thought to be skilled at making. It is true that Jomon are most well known for their pottery, in fact the oldest earthenware in the world was found at a Jomon site called the Shikazegashira ruins. Earthenware and pottery was definitely one of their strong suits, however, it is not the ONLY thing they are known from. Many artifacts have been found from the Jomon period, including various stone tools, figurines, baskets, as well as arrowheads, hooks, and harpoons carved from bone, among other things.

    Yes, I remember the 2000 Jomon hoax. Groan. Luckily, Japanese archeology seems to be still doing well despite it.

    Luckily, there has been a resurgence in interest in the Ainu in recent years. Like I mentioned earlier, more and more Ainu are coming forward to share about their culture, and interest in learning the language has gained some following. I think if this trend keeps up, there is a chance for Ainu culture to be preserved and appreciated before is fades away.

  22. Mysteryman
    Please do have you any imfo on ainu creation and flood stories, do they have a noah? Hope this isnt too far off the track!
    You mention the indigenous people of new zealand were you referring to maori or a possible earlier peoples possibly negritoes-another fascinating group? I have seen one reference to them but there does not seem to be much interest in NZ or maybe evidence.
    Sschaper
    With respect, I just want to register I dont agree with the opinion there are no such thing as races. My impression was that the PC position now is that there IS no such thing as races, supported by science. Mostly when a case is made it just promotes that side of the case and IMO likely to be more a political choice and also where the line is drawn on what is considered superficial.
    I also find the subject of neandertal man very interesting and have only recently seen science backtracking on its view that neandertal mans genes didnt get into ours.- which I didnt believe either. We are still only at the begining of understanding DNA at least 90% of it anyway.
    Theres something neandertal looking about some of the pictures of the Anui-and ME
    NB If its ever comfirmed that there australian aboriginal type peoples in S America, might this have some bearing on the Anui ? I wonder where the cloud people of Peru fit in?

  23. norman-uk- It could be considered a bit off topic, but it does illustrate Ainu beliefs and folklore of these mysterious people, and this folklore could maybe tie into that of other ancient peoples who became the Ainu I suppose. Well, there are several variations of the Ainu creation myth, with contradictory details in some instances depending on whether it is told by the Hokkaido Ainu, or the Kuril or Sakhalin tribes.

    It is a complex tale, but the basic, abridged story is that the world was created by a god called Kamui, and this world was originally a vast, uninhabited, watery quagmire of roiling oceans and swamps that rested upon the back of a giant trout. This trout’s breathing created the tides and its movements created earthquakes. In this world, there were six skies above and six worlds below. In the lower heavens, demons lived, and animals and lesser gods lived in the cloud and star bearing skies, with Kamui living at the highest level.

    One day, Kamui decided he wanted to make something of this uninhabitable mess. So he sent down a wagtail (a type of bird) to do get to work on it. The wagtail created dry land with its flapping wings and stomping feet, raising islands that became what is referred to as the Floating World. When the devil tried to sabotage the plans by swallowing the sun, Kamui thwarted him by sending a crow down his throat to choke him (one reason why the crow is still seen as a brave and bold animal in Ainu tradition). Kamui, the creator god, let animals live on these islands after they saw how beautiful they were, and he created other animals, as well as the Ainu to live there. The Ainu were said to be made of earth, with hair of chickweed and backs of willow. This is said by the Ainu to be why the back bends in old age.

    Each island was said to be ruled by a god, and a divine man, called Aioina, was sent down to tech the Ainu how to hunt and cook, but it is said that the other gods thought he smelled bad when he returned to the skies. Aioina was told to go back to the floating world and cast away his clothes before entering the heavens again. His cast away sandals became the first squirrels.

    There is a lot more to the story, this is a very basic version, and like I said there are differences in the tale, but that’s the general gist. So if you are asking about if they had a flood, then I suppose you could say they thought the world began as one big flood.

  24. norman-uk- As far as the New Zealand people go, the main hypothesis talks about a Pacific race even older than the Maori, from which they, the Polynesians, and the Aborigines, as well as the Ainu, all descended.

  25. The reason I say that there is only one human race alive at this time is the fact that we have about the same genetic variability as the African cheetah, and that isn’t much. Consider also the genetic bottleneck at about 80,000 e-years ago when *at most* a couple thousand people were alive. We really are all one race, genetically. What we do have are family resemblances, such as you can see in a small town that has had few immigrants in over 100 years such that when you see someone, you know what family they belong to by their appearance, writ large.

    If there are any Neandertal descendants alive today, they are probably those of us of European/west Asian descent. Red hair, green eyes, certain skeletal and skull features all of which are found today in this ethnotype. In fact, the classic Neandertal skulls that had held place as the type for decades were in recent years, found to be from a 17th century German graveyard, and when cut open, they stank. . .

    When considering skull and skeletal morphology we must not forget that these are plastic, influenced by diet, temperatures and lifestyle.

    It seems to me that people often assume that “primitive people” had to have been less intelligent or less capable. That just isn’t so. If the standard interp of the Floresian hobbits is correct, then even h. erectus was sea-faring, let alone the melanesians. (eh, I’m not at all sure when I’m supposed to capitalize and not in these things).