Climate Change due to Ancient Humans

Climate Changes Linked to Ancient Human Innovations

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New research has revealed that periods of abrupt climate changes led ancient humans to embark on periods of innovation and cultural expansion. The study conducted by Martin Ziegler, an earth science researcher at Cardiff University in Wales, and published in the journal Nature Communications, involved the analysis of South Africa’s climate over the last 100,000 years by investigating sediment cores taken from the offshore region near the south eastern tip of Africa.   Among the most important periods analyzed in the study date to 71,000, and a period between 64,000 and 59,000 years ago.

Ziegler was able to determine climate features, such as amount of rainfall, by examining the chemicals trapped within the sediment. He then compared this climatic data with periods of human innovation. 

The study revealed a link between wet conditions and periods of advancement in which our ancient ancestors produced more advanced stone and bone tools, and began using painted symbols in wall engravings suggesting the development of language. The findings suggest a tight link between abrupt climate changes and the emergence of modern human traits, researchers say.

During these periods of innovation, archaeologists have also found the first evidence of constructed plant beds, as well as shells thought to be worn as adornments or jewellery.

The study authors stated that insights from these locations in South Africa are vital, because they are thought to "reflect the emergence of modern behaviours of innovation, language and cultural identity."

However, it cannot be definitively concluded that the association is a cause and effect relationship between climate change and innovation. It may be that drought further north forced ancient humans into South Africa leading to competition and mixing of cultures, which could have spurred on the cultural changes.

By April Holloway

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