BBQ Born in Texas, Missouri, Carolina—or Israel?

Remains of ancient Jericho city wall. (US Library of Congress)

In recent years paleoanthropologists have begun to question whether the orthodoxical view that all humanity is descended from a small band of people who migrated out of Africa between 50,000 and 70,000 years ago. Multiregional expansion and diverse migrations are being considered plausibly as an alternative theory of Homo sapiens’ early history. Nonetheless, it’s certain that at least one of the major routes of movements of hominids from Africa was through the Sinai Peninsula and the Levant into Europe and Asia.

An exodus out of Africa for many of our very distant ancestors, therefore, traced a passage through what is today the country of Israel. Those earliest of settlers arrived tens of thousands of years before Israelites, Canaanites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Macedonians, Romans or any other peoples who have vied for the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

At Ubeidiya in the Jordan Valley two miles south of Lake Tiberias pre-human settlements are dated to 1.5 million years ago. Tabun Cave, located in the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve in northern Israel, was occupied by truly primordial Homo sapiens starting at the very early stage of the human race’s existence, circa 250,000 BC. Dog lovers and barbeque enthusiasts worldwide should be interested to note that it is here in Israel that the world’s first evidence of domesticated canines and the controlled use of fire is found. If one is searching for the first locale in which humankind roasted meats over an open fire accompanied by man’s best friend it isn’t in Austin, St. Louis or Charlotte nor even in Dallas, Kansas City or Tulsa, but probably closer to Haifa than many other major cities on Earth.

Paleoanthropologists are in the process of rewriting whole chapters of previously held doctrinal facts as Homo sapiens birth date has gone from 200,000 years ago to very recently being pushed back to 300,000 years old owing to the earth-shaking discoveries at Jebel Irhoud in Morocco.  Historians too are ripping out great sections of their supposed sure-fire chronicles concerning how, when and by what means civilization first started.

The classical date for the dawn of society had always been in lockstep with the invention of reading and writing— history being something that requires stylus and papyrus to properly inscribe. 3,200 BC was when writing first appeared, with hieroglyphics in Egypt and cuneiform in Mesopotamia. But a scant five thousand year-old culture may be the short-sighted way of viewing this matter, especially given the jaw-dropping  revelations unearthed in 1994 in Turkey at Gobekli Tepe. There is still much to be learned and archaeological excavations are in progress currently, but it’s no exaggeration to say that the site has upended much of what was previously believed about pre-history. The complex at Gobekli Tepe is old, staggeringly old, around 12,000 years old.

However, science really ought not to seem too surprised considering that the city of Jericho had always been plainly in view for researchers. Archaeologists have unearthed twenty successive settlements in Jericho, one upon the other, going back almost as far as Gobekli Tepe, the earliest dating back to 11,000 years ago. The famed wall at Jericho is the oldest defensive fortification on the planet.

Modern humans have been treading Israeli soil from time immemorial, waves of human pioneers drawn to the land by the tectonic dynamics of the Earth’s crust upon which they made their way.  Dr. Eric Force, professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona at Tucson and retired United States Geological Survey geologist, has a unique and hard to dispute theory about how our civilized world came to form in its incipient stages. His contention is easily seen, for what Dr. Force has done is to lay out two maps, one upon the other. The first is a chart of the Earth’s tectonic plates and faults; the second is a map of ancient civilizations worldwide. They are almost identical. His hypothesis is that consciously or otherwise human settlement has favored fault zones due to the benefits provided by volcanic ash for farming, the upwelling of useful materials to the surface, and ample water supplies that are usually found at plate boundaries.

In the case of the Levant, it was the fault lines within the Dead Sea Rift at the juncture between the African and Arabian tectonic plates that Neolithic hunters and gatherers followed up the Jordan Valley to Elisha’s Spring at Jericho, those fresh waters declaring the country a Promised Land with far more force than all the Sykes-Picot Agreements, British Mandates, or Camp David Accords rolled into one.

About the Author
David Nabhan is a science and science fiction writer. He is the author of "Earthquake Prediction: Dawn of the New Seismology" (2017) and three other books on seismic forecasting.
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