Exploring Climate Events
and Human Development
scientists inquire into climate change and the development of humanity
during the past 100,000 years, there are many questions that have yet
to be proven to the full satisfaction of the scientific community, many
uncertainties relating to the human dimension of climate change.
is also known from recent excavations by Chris Henshilwood and others
in the Blombos Cave in South Africa that over 70,000 years ago people
inhabiting the cave near the tip of the African continent lived a fairly
sophisticated and advanced lifestyle (Henshilwood,
discovery is an important one, for it suggests that modern human behavior
developed in Africa at a much earlier stage than previously thought. Archaeological
evidence had until recently a more "eurocentric" focus built
around the theory that modern human behavior developed later in Europe,
where numerous site dating to around 40,000 years ago have been excavated.
Some theorized it was the harsh climate that forced Homo sapiens
to become more creative in order to survive, but the new discoveries suggest
advances were made prior to the last Ice Age in Europe.
Prior to this discovery, it was assumed that 40,000 years ago, with much of the northern hemisphere blanketed by glaciers and ice, a "cultural explosion" occurred as evidenced by a wide pallet of stone tools and jewelry made by Homo sapiens in Europe .They expressed their creativity through paintings, including the famous cave paintings from the Vallon-Pont-d'Arc cave in France that date to between 30,000 and 32,000 years before the present. This cave was discovered in 1994 and contains over 300 images of bear, mammoth, horse, woolly rhinoceros,lion, stag, ibex, wild ox and other animals which existed in Europe at the time. (Many of these animals became rare or extinct at the end of the last Ice Age, and some theorize it was because they were over-hunted by humans. See Resources 100,000 years.)
The new findings suggest that prior to coming to Europe, Homo sapiens had developed "modern" behavior. It would still be a number of generations, however, for other major advances to be made such as the formation of villages, which developed in the post-glacial period around 13,000 years ago, and the domestication of crops, which began around 9,000 years ago according to current theories. While early man may have inhabited the Americas 30,000 years before present, the earliest accepted sites, located in in New Mexico and Arizona, are radiocarbon dated at 11,500 to 11,200 years B.P.(Grayson, 1993).
For more on the excavations at Blombos Cave visit the Cape Field School. Photos of Blombos cave and artifacts courtesy of C. S. Henshilwood.
Additional cave art photos from the French government's Great Archeological Sites.
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