Earliest Brits hunter-gathered their way through 10ºC temperature swings

Enlarge / Archaeologists excavating the remains of the central platform at Star Carr (credit: Nicky Milner)

A new study finds that people at one well-situated spot in early Holocene Britain handled rapid climate swings remarkably well. Archaeologists and paleoclimate researchers combined sediment core data with dates from a major Stone Age site to reconstruct how hunter-gatherer communities adapted to a series of unpredictable, century-long cold spells around 11,000 years ago. And, it turns out, at least one group of hunter-gatherers seemed completely unbothered.

A chilly return

During the early Holocene, about 11,000 years ago, Northern Europe was emerging from nearly 100,000 years of cold storage under thick ice sheets, and rising sea levels hadn’t yet cut Britain off from the rest of Western Europe. As the last of those ice sheets collapsed into the sea, their effect on ocean temperature and circulation triggered several periods of regional cooling, which lasted for about a century each. Meanwhile, small communities of hunter-gatherers started drifting back into Northern Europe.

“These societies did not simply occupy northwest Europe, but were the earliest populations to attempt to recolonize this region after the Last Glacial Period,” wrote Simon Blockley of Royal Holloway University of London. Blockley noted they did so “against a backdrop of some of the most extreme abrupt climate events known from the Holocene.” You might expect communities in that situation—just gaining a foothold in a new land and at the mercy of an unstable environment—to be pretty vulnerable to the vagaries of climate.

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Source: FS – All – Science – News
Earliest Brits hunter-gathered their way through 10ºC temperature swings