Climate Change in Prehistory: The End of the Reign of Chaos
William James Burroughs
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How did humankind deal with the extreme challenges of the last Ice Age? How have the relatively benign post-Ice Age conditions affected the evolution and spread of humanity across the globe? By setting our genetic history in the context of climate change during prehistory, the origin of many features of our modern world are identified and presented in this illuminating book. It reviews the aspects of our physiology and intellectual development that have been influenced by climatic factors, and how features of our lives - diet, language and the domestication of animals - are also the product of the climate in which we evolved. In short: climate change in prehistory has in many ways made us what we are today. Climate Change in Prehistory weaves together studies of the climate with anthropological, archaeological and historical studies, and will fascinate all those interested in the effects of climate on human development and history.
spearhead made from a deer’s antler (Mithen, 2003, pp. 150–1). Dated as being nearly 14 kyr old, this artefact was dramatic evidence of how early humans exploited the broad expanses of land that had been exposed during the last ice age, and were only reclaimed by the sea some 7 kya. When this spearhead was buried, dense oak forests had yet to spread into the region, known to archaeologists as ‘Doggerland’, where now the sea is over 30 m deep. This famous find emphasises that the rise in sea level
frequent depressions that led to the continued build-up of continental ice sheets. In winter the extensive ice cover would have been an additional factor in driving the storm track farther south and would have reinforced the bitterly cold conditions across northern Europe. Across Africa the analysis must take on a global tone. While North Africa and Arabia were influenced by patterns that controlled events in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, farther south two other factors came into play.
present. The vegetation was largely herbaceous, with a rich variety of species that adapted to local conditions. The absence of birch or pine/spruce does, however, support the idea that short-term variability hindered the growth of longer-lived species. Furthermore, during the markedly colder winters there was snow cover for across most of the North European Plain for three to six months. This, combined with stronger winds, rapid spring thaws and flooding, and highly unstable soils made the
the mountains. A consequence of this lack of ice cover and the general aridity is that it may have made parts of southern Siberia to the east of Lake Baikal more congenial than might have been expected. For instance, to the west of Lake Baikal at Mal’ta around 23 kya the vegetation was steppe merging into tundra with lakes, small streams and rivers that were crisscrossed by reindeer migratory routes and rich with waterfowl. The relatively less extreme climate is probably the reason why this part
in northwestern China by 25 kya. During the same period they moved into the Yenisei, Angara and Upper Lena River basins. An archaeological site on the Aldan River, a tributary of the Lena in eastern Siberia, was occupied by a possible ancestor group to palaeo-Arctic people of North America. The people who lived in Dyuktai Cave were hunter-gatherers and fishers and used triangular stone points that have become known as the ‘Dyuktai culture’. Occupation levels have been dated between 33 and 10 kya,