Prehistoric Humans Survived Major Natural Disasters by Cooperating

An archeological dig in Italy reveals that prehistoric humans made it through a major natural disaster by cooperating with each other. (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
An archeological dig in Italy reveals that prehistoric humans made it through a major natural disaster by cooperating with each other. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Trade and social networking helped our Homo sapiens ancestors survive a climate-changing volcanic eruption 40,000 years ago, giving hope that we will be able to ride out global warming by staying interconnected, a new study suggests.

Analyzing ancient tools and ornaments from a prehistoric rock shelter called Riparo Bombrini, in Liguria on the Italian Riviera, archeologists at Université de Montréal and the University of Genoa conclude that the key to survival is cooperation.

Their study was published in early April in the Journal of Quaternary Science. Julien Riel-Salvatore, a professor of archeology at UdeM who co-authored the study with his Italian colleague Fabio Negrino, said:

Homo sapiens had been living in the region for over 1,000 years when a “super-eruption” in the Phlegraean Fields in southern Italy, west of present-day Naples, devastated much of Europe.

In their work, the archaeologists gathered tool fragments such as bladelets — small regular flakes knocked off larger stone cores to use as barbs and slicing components of weapons for hunting — that showed the ingenuity of our early ancestors.

Some of the flint they used was brought in from hundreds of kilometers away, indicating a very extensive social and trading network that helped them survive for the next 4,000 years.

Riel-Salvatore, whose evidence to show that Homo sapiens occupied the site also includes a child’s tooth, as well as shell and soft stone ornaments, said:

His study echoes other revisions of the impact of an even older prehistoric volcanic super-eruption, that of Mount Toba on the Indonesian island of Sumatra 74,000 years ago that was once thought to have come close to wiping out humanity entirely, a theory now seriously challenged by recent evidence.

In both cases, archaeology has shown that evolution isn’t always as dramatic as we think, Riel-Salvatore said in a statement:

The bulk of the data the researchers gathered for their study was excavated between 2002 and 2005 from Riparo Bombrini, a part of the Balzi Rossi archaeological complex of Paleolithic caves that were first probed in 1938 and where excavations began in 1976.

Over the next three years, Riel-Salvatore and Negrino will continue excavations at the site to delve further into why the Neanderthal population there disappeared and was replaced by the better-equipped — and better-connected — Homo sapiens.

Provided by: University of Montreal [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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