Published on the Doomstead Diner on March 20, 2016
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The First Bugout Bags: History of Migrations of Homo Sap from Cro-Magnon to The Mormon Trail
The ongoing migration of Homo Saps currently underway from devastated communities and countries like Syria and Afghanistan is not the first mass migration to take place of our species, either before the era of Ag and then Industrialization, nor is it likely to be the last of these migrations either.
Way back in our distant past, there were actually two brands of the species Homo wandering around the Earth at the same time, around 45,000 years ago, well before the development of Agricutlure. They are designated in the Anthropology texts as Neanderthal Man and Cro-Magnon Man. Cro-Magnon man was more or less anatomically identical to modern humans, the Neaderthals had the classic "caveman" look.
They occupied the same territory in Europe for a few thousand years, with Cro-Magnon eventually completely displacing the Neanderthals who got there first. There is some evidence that interbreeding went on through this period, and that there are still some Neanderthal genes floating around in modern humans, but for all intents and purposes they were wiped out.
How did the Cro-Magnon do their migration? Given the technology of the day, they had no wheels and probably no boats that could travel across anything but small distances of water, more like rafts than boats. So it was mostly foot travel, and the equipment they carried with them pretty spartan, perhaps a hand axe and a spear and a few animal skins for making temporary shelters.
The advantage they had over modern migrants is there were few other Homo Saps or Homo Neanderthals they would run into, and there was a lot more wild foods to be accessed along the migration routes than there are today. The migrations also didn't happen rapidly over a single generation, they happened gradually over many generations. As each neighborhood they occupied filled to carrying capacity, groups would migrate another few miles to an empty spot of people with decent resources, and the process would rinse and repeat. This process eventually took anatomically modern Homo Saps across the entire globe in a series which basically came to a close when the Big Island of Hawaii was discovered by Polynesian Navigators around 1000 AD.
By that time even Stone Age technology people had developed cat-rigged sailing canoes capble of traversing the vast distances of the Pacific Ocean, although it would take the Europeans another 400 or so years before they had their own design of sailing ships capable of such ocean voyages. For Vikings who made the trip to North America before Columbus, they did it in their Longboats by Island Hopping from Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland, and they weren't succesful with setting up colonies and displacing the natives who got there thousands of years earlier.
In the case of the migrants who populated North America early on, they got here by crossing a land bridge between Asia and North America now covered by water in the Bering Straight. Over thousands more years, those migrants eventually populated both North and South America, and their own civilizations developed independently, the Mayans and the Aztecs most significantly in terms of numbers. However, there were now Homo Saps pretty much covering the globe, and the days of completely free migration came to a close.
In the years that have followed, no migrations have not been accompanied by some sort of warfare, either internal like the Pogroms in Russia where the Jews were forcibly driven out, or like the expansion of various Empires, like the Mongols or the Huns who would expand into other areas by making war on them and if successful, killing off most of the male locals and then intebreeding with the female locals of the area left alive.
Here in the FSoA, the main migrations of Europeans took place against the backdrop of the genocide of the First Nations people, which occured in large part due to diseases like the smallpox and tuberculosis they brought with them from Europe and which the natives had no immunity to, but also incorporating a huge amount of violence as well in the Indian Wars which went on non stop from the 1500s right through the 1800s, more or less coming to a close with the Massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890.
The migrations to colonize North America with Europeans are glorified in our political history as "Manifest Destiny", and the migrants of this period are themselves glorified as "Pioneers", with all the images and films of hardy folks crossing the North American continent in horse and oxen pulled Covered Wagons along the Oregon Trail. There are more than a few stories about the trials and travails of these Refugees as they made their way across the country with their Covered Wagon Bugout Bags, such as the story of the Donner Party which resorted to Cannibalism in order to survive after becoming trapped in a Blizzard in the mountains before making it to the Promised Land of Oregon.
Notice that I switched from using the popular term for these people from "Pioneers" to "Refugees", because that in fact was what they really were. Nobody would undertake such a difficult and dangerous journey unless they were FLEEING from something worse, which in many cases was Religious Persecution in Europe, and/or economic deprivation they faced wherever they came from.
Often if not all the time, the Religious Persecution itself stems from Economic reasons, as one Religion gains economic hegemony over an area and portions of the population that have other religious beliefs become impoverished. The persecuted population is just about always the poorer part of the population, the Refugees are not coming from the portion of the population that gets the wealth of a given area.
Once over here in the FSoA, travelling in steerage on overcrowded ships, Refugees piled up in cities like New York, forming huge ghettos of impoverished people. Sound familar? Those people would find work in the rapidly industrializing economy of the FSoA, and once they had enough money to afford a wagon and a couple of oxen to pull that wagon, off they would go to look for their own land and their own piece of the new pie that had been acquired by killing off all the natives that had been there before.
Except of course in the early years of this Refugee Crisis, all the Natives had NOT yet been killed off, and the ones still left were in a fight for their lives and their way of living. So there was plenty of fighting between Refugees and Natives, plenty of captives taken by both sides, and plenty of women got raped as well from both sides. Again, this sounds pretty familiar now, doesn't it?
Anyhow, for this era of refugees, the Gold Standard of Bugout Bags was the fully equipped Covered Wagon, pulled by a couple of hardy Oxen, and then hopefully also you could afford a Horse and a Mule or two to ride out and do Recon, and then maybe a couple of goats too trailing along behind for a steady source of milk and cheese on the journey. Fresh water was pretty abundant in those years except for traversing some desert areas, so refilling your water bags and casks wasn't too big a problem. Fresh Game was available to hunt down as well, and along with the rest of the preps you carried you had your Henry Rifle along as well. For the earliest Refugees, they could pretty much supply themselves with food along the way as long as they were well prepped to start out with.
As this Refugee Highway developed, Trading Posts were established along the way, and then it became possible to barter for or buy with Money if you had some, which in those days usually meant Gold or Silver coins, because Bank Notes usually weren't too reliable outside of a small neighborhood a bank might be operating. It is unlikely too many of these refugees had many Gold Coins, but they could trade furs for some gunpowder, jerky they made for a bag of flour, etc.
The final stage of these migrations tok place along the Mormon Trail. Unlike many of the refugees that had preceeded them, many of these Mormons were so desperately poor that they could not even afford the Covered Wagons pulled by the oxen, the horses and goats etc. They were fleeing Religious Persecution too, and Joseph Smith and Brigham Young had found one of the last great refuges on the planet, The Valley of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, surrounded by Mountains on all sides. The Leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints put out the call to all Mormons to come to Utah, and they came by the thousands in one of the last, if not the last great migration on foot by a large population of Homo Saps.
To replace the horse or oxen drawn Covered Wagon, impoverished Mormons substituted a Human Powered Bugout Bag arrangement, the Hand Cart.
It is unlikely in the early years of the migrations that many people could have made a cross country journey pulling a hand cart. Their prep supplies would be too limited, they would be too vulnerable to the natives whose neighborhoods they passed through and there would not yet have been well marked out trails you could pull such a device along.
Such a migration had to wait until there was a network of trading posts along the way, and bridges and ferries that would take the Refugees and their handcarts across the larger rivers, in particular the Mighty Missippi. Even so, it was a massively difficult undertaking, and many Mormons died along the trail to the Promised Land in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake. By percentage, it might even be larger than the current percentage of Syrians drowning as they attempt to cross to Greece from Turkey in small inflatable boats.
Like the MOrmons, for the modern refugees making their migration, they are dependent on a network of services and way stations along the route. Boats, Trains and Buses to cover the vast distances in a reasonable amount of time, refugee camps along the way to stop off at and hopefully get Free Food handed out by the Red Cross, and some form of working money to pay transit fees. The ferry ride across the Mississippi did not come free for the Mormons any more than train fare from Greece to Stockholm is free, even assuming you can get across all the borders in between, which probably takes some bribery in many cases.
The modern refugee also can't bring along nearly as much stuff as you could pull along with a handcart, you couldn't load so much stuff onto one of those small inflatable boats, and packing so much to get it on and off buses and trains would require many bags likely to be lost or stolen along the way.
On the upside for the modern refugee, you don't need to carry so much stuff, since much of what you might need you will be able to purchase as needed along the way, as long as you have some working money. You don't buy and carry a sleeping bag and tent in Turkey before you make the crossing to Greece in the small inflatable, for that you just take a small backpack with some clothes, your money and your passport. When you arrive in Greece, THEN you buy the tent and sleeping bag, although likely at inflated prices since there is bound to be someone out there making a profit off your misery.
Other items are cheaper and easier to replace for the modern migrant than for the Mormons on the trail, a good example would be Boots and Shoes. A good set of boots that would last a walking journey to Utah cost a fortune for people of that era, but relatively speaking such boots are much cheaper now due to mass production in China and automation. You also can replace worn out shoes or sneakers most anywhere you would be migrating through. You're also not walking nearly as much or over such rough terrain, so your footwear will last longer also.
Of course, all this replaceability falls apart once the monetary system fails and JIT delivery of Chinese Sneakers to retail outlets on Kos and Lesbos stops, but for now these things still work so you don't necessarily need extra shoes for your journey, just enough money to buy new shoes if you need them. Still a good idea though to start out the journey with a good high quality set of hiking boots, at whatever your migration budget will allow.
The current form of migration being undertaken by refugees from MENA to Europe is not likely to continue in its present form too much longer. Borders are closing and refugees are stacking up at the Choke Points along the way, and even just getting yourself across the borders with just the clothes on your back much less have the 3 Bugout Bag combination suggested in Part 1 & 2 of this series is going to become increasingly more difficult. However, in North America and in Australia, the border crossings are not as yet too much of an issue once you are on the continent, although crossing to Mejico or Canada from the FSoA is increasingly more difficult too. In part 5 of the Bugout Bag series, we'll look at another form of Human Powered Bugout still possible in these regions.