Ancient Humans

Ancient humans invented new tools during a climate crisis

Faced with an unstable environment, ancient humans had to adapt.

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Some 300,000 years ago, a prehistoric Mark Zuckerberg disrupted tool-use.

For 700,000 years prior, ancient humans had been using clunky stone hand-axes.

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian

But then something changed. Suddenly humans started making and using smaller, sharper, more sophisticated implements.

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian

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A new paper presents the analysis of thousands of years of sediment taken from a drill core. The findings point to a changing climate as the driver for this ancient innovation.

Ryan Lavery

Between 500,000 and 320,000 years ago, Earth endured several environmental disruptions and climate shifts.

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There were dramatic shifts in rainfall, increased volcanism, and intense earthquakes that shook the land.

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Researchers looked at a core of rock drilled from Olorgesailie basin in the East African Rift Valley, which is known as harbor for tools left behind by ancient humans.

Human Origins Program, Smithsonian

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They found a correlation between an unstable environment and a shift towards smaller tools, sharper weapons, and even the use of pigments during this time.

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The more mobile tool-kit allowed ancient humans to adapt to their ever-changing surroundings.

What does that mean for future humans who will face an increasingly unstable and changing climate?

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This time around, we’re the ones causing the climate and ecological shifts. We also live in a much more globally connected world, rather than separate nomadic groups.

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Although we can learn from ancient humans, “there’s the question of whether our ability to innovate, this time, will be ultimately beneficial rather than harmful,” lead author Rick Potts tells Inverse.

Read more science and nature stories here.

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