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Prehistoric people were not bothered by sudden climatic events

Posted March 31, 2018

Climate change is scary. It may change our entire way of living and the planet will never be the same. It is extremely stressful, because we don‘t know exactly what is going to happen. However, scientists from the University of York and Royal Holloway, University of London say that climate change did not really affect people‘s behaviour some 11,000 years ago.

People continued living their normal life, making a variety of things, such as antler headdresses, despite sudden decrease in the average temperature. Image credit: Jonathan Cardy via Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 3.0)

Around 9,000 BC temperature on Earth started decreasing dramatically. It suddenly became colder and this period lasted for around 100 years. People survived – we know that because we are still here. However, they didn’t just cuddle up and weep – some historical artefacts show that they continued living their productive lives. There have been studies that speculated that sudden changes in temperature might have caused a crash in Mesolithic populations in Northern Britain, but this new research shows that even when it became really cold people still made a bunch of flint blades, wooden tools, antler headdresses and other things.

Star Carr was once the site of an extensive lake and people lived around its edge, until they were pushed out by the lake gradually becoming shallower and boggier. Scientists analysed some artefacts from this area that they found in wetlands. They found evidence of houses, some commonly used tools and other artefacts. Scientists identified two periods when the average temperature dropped significantly. One was soon after the ice age, when people started coming back to this area and it did slow down the progress. However, the second one didn’t really affect people’s behaviour – they remained productive, moving forward, despite the average temperature dropping by 3 degrees.

The period after the ice age was very unstable in terms of the climate. However, people seem to have been very adaptable. Professor Nicky Milner, senior author of the study, said: “Perhaps the later, more established community at Star Carr were buffered from the effects of the second extreme cooling event – which is likely to have caused exceptionally harsh winter conditions– by their continued access to a range of resources at the site including red deer”. But what does that tell us?

Well, first of all, it shows that early human communities were more resilient that we might have thought. Typically we see them as very mobile, moving from one place to another once the conditions change. It also shows that humans in general are very adaptable to sudden climate changes.


Source: University of York

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