From: Andy Soos, ENN
Published May 21, 2013 05:31 PM

Climate Change and Man 's Evolution

Climate change is bad yet it happens whether we like or not. Then again it may not be so bad. Rapid climate change during the Middle Stone Age, between 80,000 and 40,000 years ago, during the Middle Stone Age, sparked surges in cultural innovation in early modern human populations, according to new research. The research, published this month in Nature Communications, was conducted by a team of scientists from Cardiff University's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, the Natural History Museum in London and the University of Barcelona.

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The scientists studied a marine sediment core off the coast of South Africa and reconstructed terrestrial climate variability over the last 100,000 years.

Dr Martin Ziegler, Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: "We found that South Africa experienced rapid climate transitions toward wetter conditions at times when the Northern Hemisphere experienced extremely cold conditions."

These large Northern Hemisphere cooling events have previously been linked to a change in the Atlantic Ocean circulation that led to a reduced transport of warm water to the high latitudes in the North. In response to this Northern Hemisphere cooling, large parts of the sub-Saharan Africa experienced very dry conditions.

"Our new data however, contrasts with sub-Saharan Africa and demonstrates that the South African climate responded in the opposite direction, with increasing rainfall, that can be associated with a globally occurring southward shift of the tropical monsoon belt."

Professor Ian Hall, Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, said: "When the timing of these rapidly occurring wet pulses was compared with the archaeological data sets, we found remarkable coincidences."

"The occurrence of several major Middle Stone Age industries fell tightly together with the onset of periods with increased rainfall."

The Middle Stone Age (or MSA) was a period of African Prehistory between Early Stone Age and Late Stone Age. It is generally considered to have begun around 280,000 years ago and ended around 50-25,000 years ago. The beginnings of particular MSA stone tools have their origins as far back as 550-500,000 years ago and as such some researchers consider this to be the beginnings of the MSA.  It was once considered roughly equivalent to the European Middle Paleolithic, but recent discoveries of evidence for art and symbolic culture in the MSA have forced a reassessment of this idea. The MSA is associated with both anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens) as well as archaic Homo sapiens, sometimes referred to as Homo helmei. Early physical evidence comes from the Gademotta Formation in Ethiopia, The Kapthurin Formation in Kenya and Kathu Pan in South Africa.

"Similarly, the disappearance of the industries appears to coincide with the transition to drier climatic conditions."

Professor Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum commented "The correspondence between climatic amelioration and cultural innovations supports the view that population growth fueled cultural changes, through increased human interactions."

"The quality of the southern African data allowed us to make these correlations between climate and behavioral change, but it will require comparable data from other areas before we can say whether this region was uniquely important in the development of modern human culture" added Professor Stringer.

For further information see Climate and Man's Change.

Stone Age image via Wikipedia.

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