In Brief: Prehistoric cultural changes linked to climate change in northeastern United States
Cultural changes among prehistoric people in parts of the northeastern United States likely coincided with major environmental changes in the region, according to a study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers have established that changes in climate alter terrestrial ecosystems, but the link between climatic shifts and prehistoric human culture is less understood.
Samuel E. Munoz and colleagues analyzed environmental and archaeological data from a number of sites throughout the northeastern United States that were first settled by prehistoric people nearly 13,500 years ago.
The authors combined radiocarbon dates from archaeological sites with ecological and climate records from lake sediments, and found that past climatic changes altered forest composition.
For example, whereas sedge and pine trees dominated during the early years of the region's archaeological timeline, chestnut and spruce trees flourished during the later years.
Furthermore, the ecological changes coincided with changes in both the population size and food-procuring strategies of prehistoric people.