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Surviving climate change, then and now

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Trade and social networks helped our ancestors Homo sapiens to survive a volcanic eruption that changes the climate 40,000 years ago, giving the hope that we can overcome global warming by remaining interconnected, suggests a new study.

Analyzing ancient tools, ornaments and human remains of a prehistoric rock shelter called Riparo Bombrini, in Liguria, on the Italian Riviera, archaeologists from the University of Montreal and the University of Genoa conclude that the key to survival is cooperation .

study was published in early April in the Journal of Quaternary Science .

"Liguria is where some of the first Homo sapiens more or less our direct ancestors, lived in Europe," said Julien Riel-Salvatore, professor of archeology at UdeM and co-author of the study with his Italian colleague Fabio Negrino. "They came after the Neanderthals and, unlike them, when they faced sudden changes in their climate, they did not become locally extinct or abandon the region, they adapted."

Sapiens have been living in the region for almost a century 1,000 years when a "super eruption" in the Phlegraean Fields in southern Italy, west of present-day Naples, devastated much of Europe. "It used to be thought that this eliminated most of the first Homo sapiens in Europe, but we have been able to show that some could cope with the situation without problems.They survived by dealing with the uncertainty of the sudden change" [19659008]. In their work, the archaeologists gathered fragments of tools such as blades (small flakes detached from large stones to use as spikes and cut components of weapons to hunt) that showed the ingenuity of our first ancestors. Some of the flint they used was brought from hundreds of kilometers away, indicating a very extensive social and commercial network that helped them survive for the next 4,000 years.

"They had a link with people who live far away, so that if things got out of control in the territory where they lived, they had the social option of depending on the people with whom they had established relationships: the wider the network , it was easier to survive, "said Riel-Salvatore, whose evidence also includes rare skeletons. remains and a child's tooth, as well as ornaments of shells and stones, showing Homo sapiens were there.

His study reflects others at an even older archaeological site, Mount Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. where once it was thought that a super eruption 75,000 years ago had come close to annihilating humanity completely, a theory since then refuted. In both cases, archeology has shown that evolution is not always as dramatic as we think.

"This seems to be part of a pattern in which humans are more adaptable and more resistant to these enormously disturbing events," said Riel-Salvatore. "These events can be really terrible, but only in a limited way, not across continents or globally."

It's a great leap to say that what happened tens of thousands of years ago can help predict how humans today will deal with climate change, but learning from the past does help us to locate for the future, and even refute to those who deny climate change, he added.

"Underlines the importance of archeology in order to inform the most immediate problems we face, cooperation and resilient social networks were really key to helping people overcome the dramatic climate change in the past. challenges that we face today, and some of the more entrenched positions we have to face, maybe this notion of fundamental cooperation is something we can communicate as a lesson to take home. "

Most of The data that the researchers gathered for their study was excavated between 2002 and 2005 by Riparo Bombrini, a part of the Balzi Rossi site complex for the mid-high Paleolithic that was first explored in 1938 and excavated in 1976. During the next three years, Riel-Salvatore and Negrino try to delve into the reason why the population of Neanderthal disappeared and was replaced by the best equipped. better connected – Homo sapiens .

Explore more:
Neanderthals more advanced than previously thought

More information:
Julien Riel-Salvatore and others, Human Adaptations to Climate Change in Liguria through the Middle-Upper Palaeolithic Transition, Journal of Quaternary Science (2018). DOI: 10.1002 / jqs.3005

Journal reference:
Journal of Quaternary Sciences

Provided by:
University of Montreal

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