The unknown icy cold that drove humans to leave Europe for 200,000 years (and how they adapted to return)
New research shows that a major freeze previously unknown to science drove early humans to leave Europe for 200,000 years, but they adapted and returned.
Ocean sediments from 1.1 million years ago show this Temperatures suddenly dropped more than 5°Cparticipating scientists say.
These experts say our early ancestors weren’t alive because they didn’t have heating or warm clothes.
Until now, the consensus has been that humans have been in Europe continuously for 1.5 million years.
Evidence Great frosting It is found in sea floor sediments off the coast of Lisbon.
Layers are deposited each year which are a record of sea conditions in that period. They also contain pollen grains which are a record of plants on Earth.
Researchers at the Center for Climate Physics at the Institute of Basic Sciences in Busan, South Korea, conducted computer simulation models using sediment data.
They found that average winter temperatures have dropped in many regions of Europe, well below the freezing pointeven in the temperate Mediterranean region.
A drop of this magnitude might not seem so severe by today’s standards, when many would have access to heating, warm clothes and food, but that wasn’t the case at the time, according to climate physicist and oceanographer Axel Timmermann, director of the group.
Still early humans It is not well adapted To face such extreme conditions,” he said, “there is no direct evidence that they can even control the fire at this time. Therefore, the extremely cold and dry conditions in Europe and the corresponding lack of food must have posed a great challenge to human survival.”
The oldest known human remains in Europe date back to approximately 1.4 million years ago and were recovered from what is now Spain.
They suggest that a species of early humans known as erectwhich originated in Africa, had reached Europe through southwest Asia by this time.
Paleoclimatologist Chronis Tzedakis of University College London, who led the research, turned to experts in early human settlement to see if the theory that frost drove them from Europe was confirmed by fossil and archaeological evidence.
After a comprehensive review, Found that there are human remains dating back 1.1 million years in Spainthen a gap about 900,000 years ago, from which stone tools and footprints have been found in ancient clays at Habsburgh, England.
Due to a lack of fossil evidence, it is unclear what kind of hominin the Habsburghs were, but later remains in other parts of Europe indicate that they may have been of a more advanced species called human ancestor.
The great frost had ended by the time the first humans walked the Habsburg, but it was still cold, colder than it is in that part of Europe today.
According to archaeologist Nick Ashton of the British Museum, he thinks so These early humans were adapted enough to handle the colder conditions to be able to go and stay in Europe.
The drop in temperatures may have caused this Evolutionary changes in humansSuch as increased body fat for insulation [térmico] Or an increase in hair” on the body, he told the BBC.
It might also have led to it Technological developmentsSuch as improving hunting and scavenging skills, and creating more effective clothing and shelter.”
It may have been these advances that allowed humans to overcome successive periods of extreme cold and have continuously occupied parts of Europe ever since, according to anthropologist Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum in London.
“Europe was a laboratory for human adaptation,” he said.
“The more resistant species returned to Europe because they learned to survive better or because they were a different species that had more evolved behaviors that allowed them to adapt,” he said.
The human species of the Habsburghs could have evolved into Neanderthals, who arose 400,000 years ago.
It is believed that our gender, Homo sapiensevolved in Africa about 400,000 years ago.
It settled in Europe 42,000 years ago, coexisting briefly with Neanderthals before dying out around 40,000 years ago.