In “Neanderthals were ancient mariners” (New Scientist, 29 February 2012), Michael Marshall reports,
The journeys to the Greek islands from the mainland were quite short – 5 to 12 kilometres – but according to Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island, the Neanderthals didn’t stop there. In 2008 he found similar stone tools on Crete, which he says are at least 130,000 years old. Crete has been an island for some 5 million years and is 40 kilometres from its closest neighbour – suggesting far more ambitious journeys.
Strasser agrees Neanderthals were seafaring long before modern humans, in the Mediterranean at least. He thinks early hominins made much more use of the sea than anyone suspects, and may have used the seas as a highway, rather than seeing them as a barrier. But the details remain lost in history. Any craft were presumably made from wood, so rotted away long ago. The oldest known Mediterranean boat, a dugout canoe from Lake Bracciano in Italy, is just 7000 years old. Ferentinos speculates that Neanderthals may have made something similar.
Some skeptics insist that Neanderthals probably just swam to islands. The problem with that is, how would they know in that case that they were going to an island? Surely, they were not stupid enough to just swim off, with no expectation of landfall or means of maintaining a direction?
130,000 years ago? And Michael Cremo is still wrong?