Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When Did Humans Return After Last Ice Age?

Date:
August 12, 2009
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset was one of the first sites to be inhabited by humans when they returned to Britain near the end of the last Ice Age. According to new radio carbon dating humans were living in Gough's Cave 14,700 years ago.

Gough's Cave.
Credit: Copyright Natural History Museum

The Cheddar Gorge in Somerset was one of the first sites to be inhabited by humans when they returned to Britain near the end of the last Ice Age. According to new radio carbon dating by Oxford University researchers, outlined in the latest issue of Quaternary Science Review, humans were living in Gough's Cave 14,700 years ago.

A number of stone artefacts as well as human and animal bones from excavations, spread over more than 100 years, shed further light on the nature as well as the timing of people to the cave.

Technological advances have allowed researchers at Oxford University and London's Natural History Museum to date the bones more accurately. Previous radiocarbon dates suggested a wide span of occupation of within 1000-1500 years. The new dates show a much narrower range of dates, corresponding precisely to climate warming, providing evidence that the archaeological material in the cave could have accumulated over perhaps as little as two to three human generations, centred on 14,700 years ago.

Dr Tom Higham, Deputy Director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, commented: 'In the past, radiocarbon dates have often been influenced by contamination that modern techniques can remove much more effectively. The new results have transformed our understanding of this site because at last we have a chronology we can rely on and which we can link to climatic events here and in the wider world.'

 Dr Roger Jacobi, of the British Museum and the Natural History Museum, who led the research, said: 'This is the biggest advance which we have made in understanding the story of the Palaeolithic use of this remarkable cave, and it is one which has implications for our understanding of many other British archaeological sites.'

Many of the human remains bear patterns of cutmarks, which have been interpreted as evidence of cannibalism. These were previously thought to have belonged to a more recent period of activity than that associated with the hunting of horses and red deer.

Professor Chris Stringer, Natural History Museum Palaeontologist, commented: ' We were puzzled that the human bones we excavated in Gough's Cave about 20 years ago, including those that may have been cannibalised, seemed to be up to a thousand years different in age. The new dating methods show instead that the butchery and consumption of both horses and humans occurred in a very short space of time, about 14,700 years ago. So as Europe rapidly defrosted, family groups probably followed herds of horses into Britain across grasslands where the North Sea is today.'  

 Further sites will be re-examined using the same approach to test whether humans returned to Britain at the time of climate warming or whether they came back before this period. More accurate dating might be possible through applying isotopic methods directly to the human teeth from the site, as well as to those of the prey animals, because this will allow a better assessment of whether the animals were hunted in a warmer or colder period. At present, the radiocarbon dates are not sufficiently precise enough to answer this key question.  The work is part of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "When Did Humans Return After Last Ice Age?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 August 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727130600.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2009, August 12). When Did Humans Return After Last Ice Age?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727130600.htm
University of Oxford. "When Did Humans Return After Last Ice Age?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090727130600.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Fossils & Ruins News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) — As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Tooth Plaque Provides Insight Into Diets Of Ancient People

Newsy (July 19, 2014) — Research on plaque from ancient teeth shows that our prehistoric ancestor's had a detailed understanding of plants long before developing agriculture. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

45 Years Later, Buzz Aldrin on Walking on Moon

AP (July 18, 2014) — Forty-five years ago Sunday, Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on the moon. Speaking at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, Aldrin described what he was thinking right before the historic walk. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins