Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Stone Age technological and cultural innovation accelerated by climate change

Date:
June 18, 2013
Source:
Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona
Summary:
Technological innovation during the Stone Age occurred in fits and starts and was climate-driven, according to new research. Abrupt changes in rainfall in South Africa 40,000 to 80,000 years ago triggered the development of technologies for finding refuge and the behavior of modern humans.

According to a study by the Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona, the University of Cardiff and the Natural History Museum in London, technological innovation during the Stone Age occurred in fits and starts and was climate-driven. Abrupt changes in rainfall in South Africa 40,000 to 80,000 years ago triggered the development of technologies for finding refuge and the behaviour of modern humans. This study was recently published in Nature Communications.

Archaeological and genetic evidence suggests that modern humans (the modern form of Homo sapiens, our species) originated in Africa during the Stone Age, between 30,000 and 280,000 years ago. The latest archaeological excavations in southern Africa have shown that technological innovation, linked to the emergence of culture and modern behaviour, took place abruptly: the beginnings of symbolic expression, the making of tools from stone and bone, jewellery or the first agricultural settlements.

An international team of researchers has linked these pulses of innovation to the climate that prevailed in sub-Saharan Africa in that period.

Over the last million years the global climate has varied between glacial periods (with great masses of ice covering the continents in the northern hemisphere) and interglacial periods, with changes approximately every 100,000 years. But within these long periods there have been abrupt climate changes, sometimes happening in the space of just a few decades, with variations of up to 10ºC in the average temperature in the polar regions caused by changes in the Atlantic ocean circulation. These changes affected rainfall in southern Africa.

The researchers have pieced together how rainfall patterns varied in southern Africa over the last 100,000 years, by analysing river delta deposits at the edge of the continent, where every millimetre of sediment core corresponds to 25 years of sedimentation. The ratio of iron (dissolved from the rocks by the water during the rains) to potassium (present in arid soils) in each of the millimetre layers is a record of the sediment carried by rivers and therefore of the rainfall throughout the whole period.

The reconstruction of the rainfall over 100,000 years shows a series of spikes that occurred between 40,000 and 80,000 years ago. These spikes show rainfall levels rising sharply over just a few decades, and falling off again soon afterwards, in a matter of centuries. This research has shown that the climate changes coincided with increases in population, activity and production of technology on the part of our ancestors, as seen in the archaeological records. In turn, the end of certain stone tool industries of the period coincides with the onset of a new, drier climate.

The findings confirm one of the principal models of Palaeolithic cultural evolution, which correlates technological innovation with the adoption of new refuges and with a resulting increase in population and social networks. For these researchers, the bursts of demographic expansion caused by climate change in southern Africa were probably key factors in the origin of modern humans' behaviour in Africa, and in the dispersal of Homo sapiens from his ancestral home.

The study forms part of the GATEWAYS (www.gateways-itn.eu) project of the European Commission's 7th Framework Programme, coordinated by Rainer Zahn, a researcher with the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) and the UAB's Department of Physics, and taking part in it was Martin Ziegler, a post-doctoral researcher at the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences of the University of Cardiff (UK) and scientists from the Natural History Museum, London (UK).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Martin Ziegler, Margit H. Simon, Ian R. Hall, Stephen Barker, Chris Stringer, Rainer Zahn. Development of Middle Stone Age innovation linked to rapid climate change. Nature Communications, 2013; 4: 1905 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms2897

Cite This Page:

Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona. "Stone Age technological and cultural innovation accelerated by climate change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130618101510.htm>.
Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona. (2013, June 18). Stone Age technological and cultural innovation accelerated by climate change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130618101510.htm
Universitat Auṭnoma de Barcelona. "Stone Age technological and cultural innovation accelerated by climate change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130618101510.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

Erotic Art Offers Glimpse of China's 'lost' Sexual Philosophy

AFP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Explicit Chinese art works dating back centuries go on display in Hong Kong, revealing China's ancient relationship with sex. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) — Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Newsy (Apr. 11, 2014) — A new fossil has revealed daddy longlegs one had an extra pair of eyes. Modern species retain the gene for the extra pair but never develop them. Video provided by Newsy
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:

More Coverage


Origins of Human Culture Linked to Rapid Climate Change

May 21, 2013 — Rapid climate change during the Middle Stone Age, between 80,000 and 40,000 years ago, sparked surges in cultural innovation in early modern human populations, according to new ... read more
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