New Study Reveals Our Prehistoric Ancestors Were Surprisingly Resilient to Life-Threatening Climate Change

Tuesday, 27 March 2018 - 11:34AM
Science News
Tuesday, 27 March 2018 - 11:34AM
New Study Reveals Our Prehistoric Ancestors Were Surprisingly Resilient to Life-Threatening Climate Change
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Image credit: YouTube
As anyone in any part of the Northern Hemisphere was acutely aware last week, life's no fun when the weather experiences a cold snap.

At the beginning of winter, the first snowflakes to fall are exciting and enjoyable, but by the time you get to March, frigid conditions are less an opportunity to make snowmen, and more an excuse to stay in bed until noon with the heating cranked up to full blast.

Apparently, our ancient ancestors would have been ashamed of us. A new archeological dig has found that prehistoric humans weren't particularly bothered by dropping temperatures and even managed to maintain a functioning, thriving society in the midst of one last flurry at the end of the most recent ice age.

A dig organized by the University of York, Royal Holloway University, and the University of London, examined an ancient village from the Stone Age that was unearthed in Star Carr in Yorkshire, England. Yorkshire isn't a particularly warm place at the best of times, but approximately 11,000 years ago, it experienced a rapid drop in temperature that brought more ice and snow than cavemen of the time were used to. Average temperatures dropped by 3 degrees Celsius over a period of 10 years, making things a lot cooler, and bringing with it far more ice and snow than Star Carr had been seeing when humans first made the decision to settle in the area.



So how did these prehistoric humans deal with the cold? By simply going about their lives as normal. Apparently, the ethos of Keep Calm and Carry On has been baked into the British collective consciousness for far longer than anyone had realized.

According to Simon Blockley, Professor of Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway:

Opening quote
"It has been argued that abrupt climatic events may have caused a crash in Mesolithic populations in Northern Britain, but our study reveals, that at least in the case of the pioneering colonizers at Star Carr, early communities were able to cope with extreme and persistent climate events. We found people were in fact far more affected by smaller, localized changes to their environment—Star Carr was once the site of an extensive lake and people lived around its edge. Over time the lake gradually became shallower and boggier, turning into fenland which eventually forced settlers to abandon the area."
Closing quote


As evidence of thriving community at Star Carr, archeologists were able to find evidence of houses and human bones, as well as wooden walkways that made navigating the boggy lakeside village a little more manageable. This colony carried on in spite of the cold, with humans staying in the area for around a hundred years, presumably before they all got tired of living in mud, and went off to find somewhere nicer.

It's interesting to think of the kind of challenges that these ancient humans would have suffered through, especially considering how resilient they've proven to be in the face of extremes in weather conditions.

By contrast, a brief cold snap in the modern world renders us all incapable of leaving our nice warm houses, as we glance up suspiciously at the clouds and curse the specter of climate change for providing us with snowstorms instead of the balmy, tropical weather that one would expect of this "global warming" phenomenon.

If our ancestors could see us now, they'd probably be rolling their eyes at our thin skin and over-reliance on our fancy modern technology. Back in their day, they didn't have something as futuristic as woolen sweaters.

It has been argued that abrupt climatic events may have caused a crash in Mesolithic populations in Northern Britain, but our study reveals, that at least in the case of the pioneering colonisers at Star Carr, early communities were able to cope with extreme and persistent climate events.

"We found people were in fact far more affected by smaller, localised changes to their environment-Star Carr was once the site of an extensive lake and people lived around its edge.

"Over time the lake gradually became shallower and boggier, turning into fenland which eventually forced settlers to abandon the area.



Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-03-prehistoric-people-resilient-extreme-climate.html#jCp
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