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Could Modern African Elephants be considered to be also an animal native to Iber

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Offline steveT

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« on: January 31, 2008, 22:11 PM »
Dear all,

This question may seem  daft ……. but actually it is a very logical one to ask. Until perhaps around 600 AD there existed elephants in the north of what is now Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia….the Maghreb. There is a lot of historical evidence for this. They were almost certainly African in origin and, interestingly smaller than Asian elephants – but that is about all we know.  They may have been from the African forest or savannah groups (though this model for African elephants has recently shown to be over simplistic)…..or perhaps another distinct African lineage.

Aristotle said around 350 BC that elephants were numerous in the lands around the Pillars of Hercules (straits of Gibraltar). When this has been quoted it has been understood to mean that there were elephants on the ‘African side’, as there is later historical evidence of elephants in North African eg Hannibal’s elephants (except his own personal elephant, which is believed to have been Asian …and bigger than the rest, which were North African elephants). Aristotle may have wanted to include Iberia too, as having elephants but this not made clear at all.

What we do know is that elephants are excellent swimmers. The Straits of Gibraltar are only 14 km wide, which is nothing for an elephant. So, if there were elephant populations on the ‘Moroccan side’, there is a good chance that there were populations on the Spanish side or at least elephants were occasional or even regular visitors. There is similar vegetation on both sides and elephants would know this through smell. There would have been times of food shortages providing incentives to swim the straits, which could have resulted in visits or colonisation. There is also the possibility that elephants could have got into difficulties whilst on the shoreline   (elephants are very happy to bath in the sea, as it is common on parts of the Gabon coast) and become accidental visitors/colonisers.

 Evidence/information on elephants and swimming

Many of the recent elephants and the one mammoth that inhabited many of the Mediterranean Islands are believed to have at least in part swum there (they all under went a reduction in size…a typical response to island living). There were not always perfect land bridges to the islands.

Elephants swim across Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe – the same sort of distance as the Straits of Gibraltar.

 Stegadons crossed the Lombok Straits (part of the Wallace Line)  from Bali to Flores (and other Indonesian islands)  – further than the Straits of Gibraltar.

Elephants often swim in the sea off Gabon, as protected areas meet the coast.

Elephants in India have been seen to swim to off shore islands to feed.

I’ve seen it written that elephants have been observed swimming just under 50km.

They swim at about 3kmph.

Is there any direct evidence of elephants in Spain?

I haven’t found any but there is no direct evidence for the North African Elephants either i.e. no sub fossil bones and hence no dna, as far as I can gather. If there were elephants in Spain in the recent past, I guess they would have become extinct before North African ones, as they would have only probably occupied a part of the peninsula and so have had a more limited range and Iberia may have had greater human pressures too.

 What about currents in the Straits?

There are currents flowing east/west but as far as I can gather the central current flows counter to the northern and southern currents, partly off setting their effects, when swimming north – south. People who have swum the straits have done it in 4 -7 hours. Current speeds are 0- 5kmph.
 
What were these elephants doing in Northern Africa?

I have found nothing written about this. There is more than one possible scenario, however, I believe if we look at paleo-climate data  we can put together perhaps  a very possible explanation. 8,000-7,000 ya the Sahara was a mosaic of grassland, savannah and semi desert. This is known as the Saharan Humid Phase….and lasted up to about 5,000ya. Elephants and were present throughout most of what is now the Sahara and probably  all the way to the Mediterranean coast. They are pictured on rock art all through the Sahara.

 When the climate got drier and the Sahara formed, and a population of elephants perhaps  were cut off in the Maghreb. They may even have got smaller due to environmental pressures …. i.e. limited space and food supply. The formation of the Sahara through climate change would effectively have left an ‘island’ population of elephants in the Maghreb. This in itself could also have induced, through nutritional pressures, elephants to swim the Straits, as desiccation was in steps and often rapid and often on the decades scale. Or pressures to swim could just have happened in odd drought years that would occur from time to time.

Interestingly any elephants that would have made it to Iberia, would have not had encountered their only predator….the North African, Barbary or Atlas lion.

Conclusion

I feel that although there is no direct proof of modern African elephants being present in the recent past in Iberia (and there appears to be none for North Africa to date either), I feel that it is very possible that between 8000 ya and early classical times, that elephants were present in Iberia either as infrequent visitors or even in large numbers on a permanent basis…. being eventually wiped out by man.

Clearly these are my opinions  and I may have over looked important issues or articles on points I have made…..someone might have spotted  errors in what I’ve written or know something I’ve missed and show that the idea is flawed. Does anyone have an opinion on the idea?

steveT














Offline Technopat

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« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2008, 22:43 PM »
Greetings steveT,

Fascinating!
Of course can add nothing constructive to your theory/working hypothesis.

3 thoughts do crop up, however:
1. If we take for granted that life (i.e. all kinds of protein-based whatchamacallems, fauna, flora and fungi) began in warm climes and then for whatever reasons headed farther north and south, hairy mammoths would most likely have made their migration from south to north, getting hairier as they went along. Even if latter-day elephants (más o menos hairless) are apparently descented from Ice Age mammoths, surely that would have been due to 'em doing the return trip several generations later because of the various climate changes our dear planet Earth has undergone over the years.

2. Can't remember the timescales, but although elephants are excellent swimmers (as witnessed on a doc.*) they might also simply have crossed when the Straits were not covered by sea, as in the tree shrew migration mentioned elsewhere on the iberianatureforum.

3. The famous phrase, attributed to Dumas, and which riles Spaniards so much - "África empieza en los Pirineos" therefore takes on a newish significance ...**

*however one of the most amazing docs. I've seen recently demonstrated how excellently tigers, of all unlikely animals, swim ...

**and with looming desertization ...

Shall-watch-this-thread-with-interest regs.,
Technopat
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2008, 22:52 PM »
PS:
Completely circumstancial and therefore irrelevant, but curious, nonetheless:
Hannibal's brother - forgotten his name - at the time of the Battle of Baecula (Bailén) had coins minted which had an elephant - the symbol of his army - on the tails side ...
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2008, 23:07 PM »
Greetings steveT,
Technopat is on a winning streak: the guy at the museum http://www.lasprovincias.es/valencia/pg060701/prensa/noticias/Cultura/200607/01/VAL-CUL-198.html agrees with me when I suggested that they crossed the Med when it wasn’t covered with water ... :dancing:

Googling also brought up the following isolated refs.:

Una nueva aportación para el conocimiento de la iconografía del elefante en la Península Ibérica: El ladrillo del Puerto de Mazarrón

    * Autores: Sebastián F. Ramallo Asensio
    * Localización: Anales de prehistoria y arqueología, ISSN 0213-5663, Nº 1, 1985 , pags. 129-132

Los restos más antiguos de la presencia humana en la Península Ibérica tienen 1,4 millones de años at http://www.consumer.es/web/es/educacion/2005/07/23/143964.php

Another reference is the Ruta de los elefantes - Atienza to Medinaceli
http://www.atienza.info/textos/rutas/r6elefante.htm

Follow-that-with-yer-performing-seals regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
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Offline steveT

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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2008, 23:28 PM »
Dear Tp,

Re. point 2. There was a migration of 'elephants' (not modern elephants mind) from Africa to Iberia via dry land .....this was a few million years ago.

Re. point 3.  I like the reference to África empieza en los Pirineos" !!!

Re. The coins minted for the celebration of  the Battle of Baecula (Bailén) . I'm sure you will find the elephant on coin is African rather than Indian ..... I think I've seen pictures of this coin .... and if its the same one the image is clearly African elephant and not Indian.

steveT

Simon

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« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2008, 09:04 AM »
Hi Steve T and Technops,

Hannibal's younger brother ws called Hasdrubal. There was another Hasdrubal, however, Hannibal's brother-in-law ; this Hasdrubal was the one who inherited the Carhagean throne after Hannibal's father, Hamilcar, died. It was Hasdrubal the brother-in-law who secured the Carthagean colony in Iberia and ended up being assassinated by an Iberian slave. The other Hasdrubal, i.e. Hannibal's actual brother failed in his attempt to maintains the Iberian colonies, which were conquered from a beachhead here at Tarragona by the brothers Scipio, whose mopnument is on the main coast road just to the north (more impressive than the monument itself, perhaps, are the numerous wreaths left by reatives of drivers who failed to swerve out of the way of the monument or ran out of road rubbernecking presvious wrecks!). This Hasdrubal led a late relief forces to Italy but was defeated a  Ancona. Hasdrubals' severed head was sent to Hannibal waiting at Capua, so the barca family might not appreciate any jokes about the other side to Baecula coin! I supose the questoion now is; which Hasdrubal was at Baecula?

Incidentally, Hannibal and his elephants allegedly crossed the Pyrenees via the Val d'Aran, as they are said to have passed through the territory of tribes called Arenoses. To get there they would have passed up the valley of the Noguera Pallaresa, i.e. my patch again!

Getting away from this rather off-the-subject debate; here's a report of humans c-habiting with mammouths:

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/cataluna/yacimiento/restos/mamut/Tarragona/podria/ser/matadero/elpepuespcat/20070606elpcat_21/Tes

Eat your heart out Fred Flintstone!

Simon


Offline lisa

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« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2008, 10:11 AM »
I hope you're not thinking along reintroduction lines steveT  >:D
By the way, I don't think elephants evolved from Woolly mammoths.
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Offline nick

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« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2008, 11:00 AM »
Brilliant posting!
Nick
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Offline steveT

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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2008, 22:25 PM »
Lisa ....well there is a  European Directive, as I'm sure you know, that member states are obliged to facilitate the reintroduction of once native species ......................only joking !!!!!!( The bit about the Directive is true mind ). Yes the bit about elephants evolving from mammoths, I'm sure your right.

steveT





Offline nick

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« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2008, 11:34 AM »
A thought. Apart from the absence of a fossil record, there are, to my knowledge, no examples of cave paintings of elephants in Spain.
Painting an elephant would have been irresistible to any prehistoric painter .
Nick
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Offline steveT

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« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2008, 23:23 PM »
Nick,

Yes I agree ....... it had crossed my mind. I checked on the net ( only briefly mind ) and elephants as a rock art images appear south of the Atlas range...........in what is now the Sahara ......I found none for the area where the North African Elephants lived either ie the MaGhreb Mediterranean zone   .....I could be wrong here though. I guess you can argue that not all cultures produce rock art and if they do, they choose images - and not always ones we would expect them to choose. I know little about Iberian rock art in the last 10, 000 years (Holocene), but there are no aurochs or bears- or few - these were not chosen - symbols of power that you could have thought would be expressed as rock art. There appears to loads of symbols and hunting scenes involving animals like deer and ibex.

Most if not all the remaining hunter gatherers of Africa produce no rock art eg Dorobo of Kenya, Hadzabe of Tanzania, various pygmy groups and perhpas the San bush men ( I could be wrong but non or very little of the rock in southern Africa is very recent). Perhaps the cultures of north Africa ( and perhaps Iberia) saw these huge creatures but chose not to draw them.

stevT


Offline Technopat

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« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2008, 02:15 AM »
Greetings All,
Lisa, I hope I made it clear, re. which came first, the chicken or the egg the woolly mammoth or the more-or-less hairless elephant, that to my mind it's clear, but I was referring to a study I once read that claimed the reason elephants had bristly hair all over was 'cos they were still in the evolutionary process of adapting to warmer climes ...
 
steveT and Nick - I've always wondered what criteria our ancestors had for their artistic creations - in some cases it's clear from hunting scenes, etc. But in other cases, as in much of the so-called art crap we have to put up with latter-day artistic expression, the mind, quite frankly, boggles.
I suppose that larger and/or animals considered too much of a hassle to hunt (bears? elephants?) would not have been bothered with unless absolutely necessary, as in times of scarcity of other food sources. And if times were tough, maybe artisitic expression was kept to a minimum. In other words, I would imagine that cave paintings were the result of a relatively well-plenished larder and not much need to spend time hunting. Either that or the guys (and gals) had already killed off all the local bears in order to squat occupy their caves. That don't explain the lack of elephant pics., however.

Interestinger and interestinger,
Technopat
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #12 on: February 03, 2008, 02:23 AM »
PS.
Googling for rupestre AND elefante brought up the following gem:
http://sahara-news.webcindario.com/grabadosrupestresineditosdesmara.htm of rock drawings from the Spanish Sahara (Smara).

PPS.
The two internal links to the two drawings themselves refer back to the same page, so don't bother clicking on the second link.
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2008, 02:28 AM »
PPPS.
The following URL gives a nice pic. of a French stamp with an elephant, among other posers, from the caves of Rouffignac:
http://todocoleccion.net/francia-2006-cueva-rouffignac-pinturas-rupestres-tema-arqueologia~x2892029
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2008, 02:38 AM »
Greetings All,
Don't want to keep typing in the capital P too many times, at least until the elections are over, so this comes under its own posting rather than as a postscript:
The following web site on Asturias http://www.desdeasturias.com/asturiasbasica/rutas.asp?idruta=48 has this:
Quote
Desde principios del siglo XX, la Cueva del Pindal forma parte del Patrimonio Artístico Regional. Posteriormente es declarada Monumento Nacional. En un trabajo de investigación llevado a cabo por expertos del arte rupestre, en 1954, se logran datar 45 pinturas, las más destacadas son 9 caballos, 11 bisontes, 2 elefantes, 3 cérvidos, 1 jabalí y 1 pez, un amplio abanico de la fauna de la época. La estrecha relación simbólica que unía al hombre y a la naturaleza animal salta a la vista. Otro tipo de relaciones, de carácter supersticioso o sobrenatural, corresponden al criterio de los analistas contemporáneos.

Por otro lado, la presencia de un elefante, un mamut más concretamente, silueteado con trazos rojos y un tanto desvaídos, tiene una gran importancia en el arte rupestre conocido en la península, ya que este tipo de representaciones son muy escasas. Además nos hablan por sí mismas de un clima extremadamente frío, como ya se apuntó. Y realmente hubo mamuts. Muy cerca, en los límites del concejo de Ribadedeva con el vecino concejo de Llanes, hace pocos años se descubría íntegro un esqueleto de este tipo de paquidermo. Esperaba a los investigadores en una cavidad del acantalidao que en pleamar quedaba oculta por el agua. El rescate fue muy dificultoso pero se concretó, y la realidad de sus fósiles sirven ahora para constatar la veracidad de las pinturas paleolíticas, de las que nunca dudamos.

Regs.,
Technopat
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2008, 02:50 AM »
Greetings All,
Further googling brought the inevitable: ARQUEOLOGÍA PSÍQUICA (I won't bother you with the the URL), which raves about astronomy in rock art, but which if anyone can get past the first 3 or 4 pages will probably end up talking 'bout astrology or UFOs or whatnots ...
Haberlas-haylas-(En. anyone?) regs.,
Technopat
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2008, 03:03 AM »
One last one from
http://www.elmundo.es/motor/99/MV123/MV123rupestre.html :

Quote
MONTE CASTILLO
Puente Viesgo. N-623, a 27 kilómetros de Santander

Compuesto por varias cuevas (El Castillo, Las Monedas, Las Chimeneas y La Pasiega), se trata de un conjunto muy importante de arte rupestre, ya que están representados todos los estilos de arte parietal paleolítico y posteriores. Sólo se puede acceder a la cueva del Castillo, con más de 150 figuras de animales, como ciervos, bisontes, caballos, corzos y hasta un elefante, entre otros, además de 50 figuras humanas y manos, junto a múltiples signos.
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Offline lisa

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« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2008, 09:28 AM »
Amazing research T , hasta the  hilatelic  :clapping: But all the references so far show the high head of the mammoth ece t. your last exam le. I found this drawing from the Cueva El Castillo which, I think, definitely looks more ele hant-like with the lower head although the University of Cantabria's  aleolithic art page says it's a mammoth;
"Este primer inventario incluía entre el bestiario presente en esta cueva figuras de ciervas, ciervos, caballos, bisontes, cabras, uros, y temas más escasos en el área cantábrica como cánidos y lo que definen como elefante que no es sino una figura de mamut."



(Looks like a baby ele hant to me.)
By the way, in solidarity with T 's sentiments, I'm boycotting the letter on the top right of my keyboard  :)
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Simon

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« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2008, 13:10 PM »
Hi Lisa el al,

Just an idle thought - are African elerants trainable, I always assumed not. Rrobably too much tarzan watching asa srrog! If this is the case though then where did our friend Hannibal get his 'cavalry' (sic) from?

As for the 21st letter: Wee wee wee - tee hee!

Simon

Offline steveT

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« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2008, 17:37 PM »
Simon,

Afican elephants have been trained

The Carthiginians used the North African elephant in warfare .

King Leopold had many African forest elephants trained ih the Belgium Congo ....to help 'develop' the colony.

Decendents of this programme -only 1 left now I think - remains to take tourists around Garamba National Park DRC(this is a facsinating park which has had a very troubled existence).

The famous Jumbo of Victorian London Zoo, who carried people around was African.

I think there are a few trained African elephants in  S Africa .....but I' not sure.


steveT