Ancient Human Innovations Tied to Climate Change

  • Michael Briggs , Design & Trend Staff Writer
  • May, 21, 2013, 04:11 PM

Could a rapid climate change have spurred human innovation in South Africa?
Could a rapid climate change have spurred human innovation in South Africa?


Climate change has been advantageous to humankind in the past, according to new research.

Scientists have discovered that the climate of South Africa, once much wetter and greener than today, went through a rapid change nearly 80,000 years ago that consequently spurred human innovation. During this period, evidence suggests early modern humans began to make new tools and started using symbols on walls to communicate. These findings showed enough probable cause for the team to link the climate change to the emergence of a more advanced society of humans.

"We provide for the first time really good evidence that the occurrence and disappearance of these first finds of human innovation are linked to climate change," said study author Martin Ziegler, an earth science researcher at Cardiff University in Wales. 

Researchers examined a marine sediment core off the coast of Africa to study the area's ancient climate history from the past 100,000 years. After compiling their findings, they observed a considerable difference in South Africa's climate in comparison to other areas both near and far.

"We found that South Africa experienced rapid climate transitions toward wetter conditions at times when the Northern Hemisphere experienced extremely cold conditions," said Martin Ziegler of the Cardiff University School of Earth and Ocean Sciences in a news release.

As Southern Africa was experiencing a much more lush climate, the majority of sub-Saharan Africa was experiencing a draught that pushed more human competition and cross-cultural breeding into South Africa.

"The correspondence between climactic ameliorations and cultural innovations supports the view that population growth fuelled cultural changes, through increased human interactions," said Chris Stringer of London's Natural History Museum in a news release. 

New research from this area could be particularly valuable to researchers because it "reflect[s] the emergence of modern behaviors of innovation, language and cultural identity," the group said in the study.

However, more samplings need to be collected in other areas, including the Northern Hemisphere, to prove that the findings correlate the present evidence.

"The quality of southern African data allowed us to make these correlations between climate and behavioral change, but it will require comparable data from other areas before we can say whether this region was uniquely important in the development of modern human culture," said Stringer. 

The study was published in the journal Nature Communications. 

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