The Pleistocene Nonconformity
It is now the time to deal with an extremely important event in human history. Over a period of approximately 3,000 years huge swathes of valuable prime coastal lands were inundated. Whatever came before, was uprooted and destroyed. We simply do not know what was lost. We also do not know precisely how sudden the onset was globally although cultural sources argue strongly for an abrupt transition.
This event, though attracting tremendous speculation thanks to extensive and possibly misleading cultural sources over the years, is also based on a physical fact pattern as compelling as the fact pattern originally supporting Wegener’s continental shift hypothesis before it was confirmed by ocean drilling and magnetic mapping. We will set out to introduce and describe one mechanism capable of causing this event and draw a number of key inferences.
Starting approximately 11,600 years ago we know that the sea rose over 300 feet due to the rapid melting of the northern ice caps. This event happened in two surges about 3,000 years apart. We also know that grain based agriculture appeared spontaneously in the aftermath in several locales globally. Large game populations collapsed and went extinct. Average precipitation on the Greenland ice cap was sharply changed according to the ice core data.
The rise in the sea level, whether slow or catastrophic would have liquidated all coastal antique civilizations such as may have existed. In the event of a slow rise, such civilizations would have lost access to rich delta lands, and would have been forced back onto lands already supporting a more primitive lifeway and rarely capable of supporting any other. In the tropics this meant slash and burn agriculture in the highlands where soil leaching made any other form impractical.
As suggested in the previous chapter, humanity has had the capacity to generate antique civilizations for as much as thirty thousand years. The best and most likely place for first emergence would be on the massive coastal plains in and around the Indonesian archipelago. These coastal plains were all submerged over a three thousand-year span beginning 11,600 years ago. What was a serious inconvenience to the continental based societies was a complete catastrophe to residents of the plains of the South China Sea. They absorbed a complete loss of their homeland leaving only the mountainous rim.
I will go further to suggest that such a coastal plain, fully exploited by agriculture as we described in the last chapter, would be hugely stable and unlikely to generate any prior out emigration with the exception of trading forays. We only have to look at China to see a country that for most of its history was the Promised Land, leading only to nominal out-migration, and then mostly to Southeast Asia.