Stone Age technological and cultural innovation accelerated by climate, research says

June 18, 2013

According to a study by the Universitat Autònoma 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 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 has varied between (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 . These changes affected rainfall in southern Africa.

The researchers have pieced together how varied in southern Africa over the last 100,000 years, by analysing deposits at the edge of the continent, where every millimetre of 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.

Explore further: Past tropical climate change linked to ocean circulation

More information: Ziegler, M. et al. Development of Middle Stone Age innovation linked to rapid climate change, Nature Communications 4, Article number: 1905.

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1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2013
My english is not good but i will try.
Here is a simple theory for predicting the possibility of technological advancement in a given society.
1Societies with moderate weather + Challenging environment = Advance quickly.
2Societies with hostile weather + Challenging environment = Move too slowly.

Now the solution to no 2 societies would be some kind of innovation like creating giant ultra violet shield to protect them from execssively bright hot Sun ray, extreme cold societies would be some sort of light special clothing to moderate the cold. I am not from the US but i read that northern States are more progressive than the sourthern states.I suspect 2 things as the cause 1. mostly warmer weather throughout the year because of their closeness to the equator than the north. and 2The intense light from the sun. Thse kind of societies are not natural innovatin until something forces them.
If you want to make a society more progressive,deal with the weather not the physical envn
1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2013
Please again, every human is capable of being innovative and progressive but innovation in societies of moderate environments tends to be constantly thriving while hostile environment societies are suppressed by their weather, only being put to full use when faced with a long term threat.and That doesn't mean the creative mind is lost forever in this category of societies.

Sorry i am just an idiot when it comes to grammer .Please don't judge me. Thanks
1 / 5 (3) Jun 18, 2013
wow, ancient humans were smart enough to come in out of the rain....that is just incredible insight.

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