The Migration of Paleolithic People Was Choice, Not Chance

It’s clear that the ancient humans migrated along landmasses to reach fertile soil and lands abundant with clean water and resources. However, the question that kept researchers busy was migration across oceans. A research team conducted a study if the migration to the Ryukyu Islands between Taiwan and mainland Japan was done by chance or on purpose.

An artist's re-creation of the first human migration to North America from across the Bering Sea.
The Idea Behind the Experiment

Migration was a necessary part of human history. Because of the difficulty of the feat and the limited resources of ancient people, their travels between different landmasses became a fascinating topic for historians and researchers. Professor Yosuke Kaifu from the University of Tokyo decided to tackle the topic alongside his team. Their research focuses on the transition between Taiwan to the Ryukyu Islands that took place 35,000-30,000 years ago. They chose this area because it’s historically significant and not easy to get to because it’s opposite one of the strongest currents in the world, the Kuroshio. To see if the trip could have been made by accident, they used specialized buoys which they tracked by satellite to see if the currents would take them to the islands. Only 4 out of 138 came within 12 miles of any of the Ryukyu islands.

satellite-tracked buoys
Was the Migration to Ryukyu Islands Intentional

The results of this experiment led Kaifu and his team to believe that the migration to the Ryukyu islands was highly unlikely to have happened by chance. The region must have been actively navigated instead, as the Kuroshio current would have navigated drifters away from the islands. Available geological records confirm that the current has been stable for the last 100,000 years. Thanks to the dedicated work of professor Kaifu, his team, and their innovative research approach, a strong case has been made that the ancient Paleolithic populations in the area were explorers that took the trip to the Ryukyu islands by choice, navigating dangerous currents along the way.Ryukyu Islands