Ocean Sediments Reveal Cold Snap in Europe’s Distant History

News August 13, 2023

LONDON, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that analysis of ocean sediments off the coast of Portugal dating back more than one million years indicates a drop in temperatures may have driven early hominins out of Europe for a period of 200,000 years. Fossil finds indicate that Homo erectus was living in Spain some 1.4 million years ago to about 1.1 million years ago. Then, there is a gap in Europe’s archaeological record until about 900,000 years ago and the stone tools and footprints found in England, which have been attributed to Homo antecessor. Chronis Tzedakis of University College London and Axel Timmermann of the IBS Centre for Climate Physics and their colleagues ran computer model simulations of climate conditions over time using data on sea conditions and pollen grains in the layers of sediments. The models suggest that average winter temperatures dropped well below freezing about a million years ago. “Early humans were not yet well adapted to cope with such extreme conditions,” Timmermann said. “There is no direct evidence that they could even control fire at this time.” The change in climate may have led to evolutionary changes such as increased hair and body fat, and technological developments in hunting and scavenging, building shelter, and making clothing, commented Nick Ashton of the British Museum. Read the original scholarly article about this research in Science. To read more about early homininsgo to "Homo Erectus Stands Alone."

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