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Ancient animals on ancient boats

June 22, 2016

Humans have been reshaping the biosphere for much longer than most people realize.

About twenty thousand years ago, in the latter days of the Pleistocene epoch, a cat-sized marsupial from New Guinea travelled by boat or raft to the rifle-shaped island of New Ireland. The South Pacific voyage of the northern common cuscus was likely involuntary, and likely ended—unhappily for the cuscus—in a cooking fire. But it was momentous: cuscus bones excavated from the floor of a New Ireland cave are some of the oldest archeological evidence of humans transporting an animal species to a new environment.

There is no direct evidence of the vessels used that long past. But it required vessels for people to transport animals across seas, the technical sophistication to make those vessels and plan those voyages, and the cultural complexity to justify the considerable effort involved. (Cite.)

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