Dear colleague and friend,
The finding of a few manmade stone tools suddenly reveals that 40,000 years ago humans stepped on an island. How and why did they arrive there? What else did these people bring with them? Their knowledge and
their beliefs, their traditions, their language, what else? And then what happened? How come that beliefs, traditions, and languages were modified and acquired regional and local patterns? How come that different cultures came to give specific identities to different human groups? How come that humans expanded all over the planet? How are human abilities, concepts, and traditions born, and how do they travel
and have their course?
These questions arise in almost all study and research in anthropology and archaeology. They may arise in every event, conversation, thought or daily habit. They may arise even when you think about your meal:
how was this dish invented, where is it from? After fire was mastered, grilled meat became the most widespread dish, and did not need a plate. When the first cooking pot was invented, boiled food allowed
for a much more diversified diet. Food today, apart from fire or heat, requires a plate and a cooking pot. How, why, and where did such habits become part of culture? How did these habits diffuse? The first homeland of humankind is believed to be a corner of Africa. Other primates grew there as well and they are still there. Over 2
million years ago, the ancestors of man produced the first tools to enhance the abilities of their hands, and expanded their territory, reaching Asia and Europe. How? Why? Human colonization never stopped. High mountain ranges and regions of thick forest and faraway islands were reached and settled much before
the invention of wheeled vehicles and motor boats. Islands, like Crete, which have never been connected to continental land, have traces of the human presence already over 100,000 years ago. By then seafaring had developed enough to allow the landing of entire clans on islands where they settled down for generations.
From what we know, Australia was first peopled some 60,000 years ago. Some 40,000 years ago humans had crossed Beringia and were present already in five continents. How and why did this diffusion take place?
In the course of a few millennia, hundreds of islands were populated in the Pacific and seafaring people introduced and developed different habits and patterns of culture. Major islands, like Greenland or
Madagascar, became populated by different waves of migrants. The history of man is made up of many stories, many events, many adventures, many acts of daring and courage that reveal the marvelous
human experiences of curiosity and inquisitiveness. They reveal your heritage, whoever you are, the identity of your ancestors: explorers, discoverers, and conquerors pushed by the biggest fault and the
biggest gift of our species: curiosity. The diffusion of cultures never stopped. Famous events like the
diffusion of European culture in Australia totally changed its ethnic identity; the diffusion of Christianity in Latin America or of Islam in Asia and Africa introduced new values and changed beliefs, cult practices, behavior, concepts, and social traditions. Society and human relations altered too.
The diffusion of culture imposes new patterns and eliminates previous ones. The diffusion of cultures and the colonization of new living spaces in deserts, isolated islands, and almost inaccessible mountain ranges, the expansion of cultural patterns, the elimination of other cultural patterns, and the meeting and mingling of cultures and traditions resulted in modern humanity. This reality is made up of an infinity of adventures.
Some of these may find space in a forthcoming issue of EXPRESSION.
Small details may inspire big thoughts. Even specific and local cases of colonization or changing cultural patterns may contribute to a more general overview.
What is the story behind the diffusion of a certain kind of pottery or a type of sailing boat? How come wheeled vehicles reached the four corners of the world? Culture marks the destiny of humankind. Near Eastern Neolithic peasants penetrated into Europe, was an “illegal invasion of extra-communitarians” that changed the ethnic
identity of Europe and created a new European identity and civilization which in the course of time conquered the rest of the world. The spread and conquests of the Chan agricultural people suppressed pastoralists and hunters and created the Chinese identity and civilization and the biggest nation on earth. The Roman empire
suppressed the barbarians, conquered people in Iberia, Gallia, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Near East, and created a new cultural and social pattern. This was the basis of a conceptual background that favored the birth and growth of Christianity.
Many other events defined the diffusion of culture. Every story, every tradition, and every archaeological testimonial find is relevant. Even small events of tribal migrations and cultural influences are part of
global history. Questions about the roots of Aboriginal arrival in Australia, the diffusion of man in Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia, the colonization and subsequent abandonment of early cultural adventures in the Tassili and other areas of the Sahara Desert, the early penetration of peoples in the tropical forest of
Amazonia or the Congo, the process of colonizing some tough regions like the Tibet high ranges or the Kalahari, the Rub el-Khali or the Gobi deserts, are significant events revealing the spirit of man.
Every story and every myth, like every archaeological find, provides a chapter on the diffusion of culture.
Much still remains to be discovered or even understood. The Azores Archipelago is considered to have been first inhabited some 700 years ago, but when the first recorded visitors arrived there, they found
domestic goats pasturing on one of the islands. Somebody had been there before.
Sometimes a piece of pottery, a rock painting, the introduction of a domestic animal or plant, or other relics of human action may reveal a story of migration influence, or cultural diffusion.
Colleagues and friends having stories, ideas, or documents to share are cordially invited to join and propose their papers. Please consider that EXPRESSION is not a periodical specializing in a specific sector or area of archaeology, but a quarterly e-journal in conceptual anthropology, addressed to institutions and individual
readers in 80 countries around the world. Make your text appealing to this kind of audience. Avoid dry technical reports. Tell your story to a world of culture, make it interesting to people eager to learn from
A forthcoming issue on cultural diffusion is planned for 2020.
Proposals or drafts of texts are welcome. Do not leave it to the last minute. Details on how to present your paper are specified in the last issue of EXPRESSION.
Cordial regards and best wishes for an inspiring new year,
General editor of EXPRESSION
EXPRESSION ISSUE 26