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15,000 years ago in America

by Greg Krehbiel on 4 January 2018

I’m continually disappointed that nobody has found any Neanderthal remains in the Americas. It would make me feel so much more at home. All we ever get is very recent stuff, and of course it’s all Homo Sapiens.

Not that I have anything against Homo Sapiens. They’re my favorite creature. They’re just so ordinary.

The latest evidence seems to show that humans didn’t get to the Americas until something like 13,000 years ago, although there are other theories. But let’s say, just for argument’s sake, that there were no humans in the Americas 15,000 years ago, and let’s say you were forced back in time somewhere in North or South America. Just you. No tools or books or matches or anything like that.

Where would you choose?

To make it slightly easier, let’s say you can choose which season you arrive in.

I’ve often assumed I would choose a place next to the Chesapeake Bay, for a few simple reasons. 1. I’m better at fishing than hunting. 2. The area is fairly gentle. The climate is decent, and there aren’t many tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, mud slides, earthquakes, etc. 3. I would know — at least a little — what I was getting into.

Barring some medical emergency, I’m sure I could survive a spring, summer and fall along the edge of the Chesapeake. Winter is another question.

The winters in Maryland are fairly mild, but … how would I preserve food? I suppose I could live off oysters and clams and fish — and I might get the occasional deer or rabbit — but I wouldn’t have the foggiest idea how to preserve vegetables. And for that matter, most vegetables that I know probably aren’t native to the area, so it would take me some time to figure out which plants and roots and such I could eat. (I know a little about that, but not nearly enough.)

So winter is a big question mark, which leads me to think that I ought to pick a spot where the living is a little easier — year round.

I’m leaning towards Mexico. Probably a place near where a river empties into the Atlantic. It would be completely new territory for me, but I think I’d be more likely to survive.

Being a fair-haired, light-skinned person, I would die of sun exposure before too long, but at least I think I would survive a few winters.

Where would you go?

(Note: Hawaii is not an option.)

2018-01-04  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 8

  1. smitemouth
    4 January 2018 @ 10:05 am

    If you were a person living 10,000 years BC, you wouldn’t know diddly about the weather. If some catastrophic event occurred, you would ascribe it to the gods being mad at you and not to a bad location, more than likely. Besides, on foot, it takes a long time to travel.

    If I could pick a place, I would choose some place in California–assuming it is not populated like it is now. I’d choose the southernmost place on the coast that had a fresh supply of water. The climate along the southern coast is never too hot, never too cold.

  2. RR
    4 January 2018 @ 1:39 pm

    The climate was different in the Americas 15,000 years ago. The same holds true for the ecology. Arguably, one of the worst disadvantages of being in the Americas (instead of say Eurasia) 15,000 was the lack of animals to domestic, especially beasts of burden. I suppose you would need to take all of this into account in considering the question, correct?

  3. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    4 January 2018 @ 1:45 pm

    Yes, the climate was different, and yes, there were no pigs, horses, donkeys, sheep, cattle, oxen, ….

    One of the reasons humans in the Americas didn’t advance very far (according to Jared Diamond) is the lack of domesticatable animals.

  4. RR
    4 January 2018 @ 7:35 pm

    Diamond’s argument strikes me as fairly convincing. Domesticated animals are not simply a major source of meat and dairy, but were very important as beasts of burden and transportation before the Industrial Age.

    To answer your question, somewhere with a moderate climate, good farmland and good places to fish and hunt. Maybe southern Appalachia.

  5. pentamom
    5 January 2018 @ 9:36 am

    You could dry your food to preserve it, but does “drying” anything happen in southern Maryland? 🙂

  6. Ken Crawford
    6 January 2018 @ 11:33 pm

    Perhaps I’m biased having grown up here but it’s hard to beat the California Bay Area. Very moderate all year round, plenty of fresh water, abundant wildlife. And it used to have great fishing, or so it is said.

  7. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    7 January 2018 @ 9:38 am

    Yes, and I considered the Bay Area. My concern is that California seems to have a history of extremes. There have been some pretty long-lasting droughts around there.

  8. Ken Crawford
    7 January 2018 @ 12:18 pm

    There have been plenty of droughts in California of course, but I think from the perspective of an individual, not a farmer trying to irrigate 100’s of acres, even the worst of the droughts wouldn’t be a big deal. The hills and mountains create very large watersheds backed by lots of snow at the high elevations. Thus the significant rivers and creeks don’t go dry in Northern California (that’s not true in Southern California which is much dryer). At the worst of the drought 2 years ago (5 years of drought) all of the notable rivers and even most of the sizeable creeks had enough water to drink from. Now the reservoirs… that was a different story.

    Fast forward 15,000 years, and the region has a lot more downsides. 🙂

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