A new study led by UCL researchers has found evidence of paleoclimate evidence that suggests southern Europe experienced a significant temperature drop around 1.1 million years ago, which likely resulted in the disappearance of early human populations in this region.
The study, which was published in the journal Science, revealed that unprecedented glacial conditions occurred approximately 1.1 million years ago, rendering the European climate unsuitable for early humans. This made the continent devoid of any human beings.
Evidence from Iberia indicates that the oldest human remains ever found in Europe were discovered in Iberus. This implies that early humans migrated from southwest sia approximately 1.4 million years ago, during which they experienced warm and wet weather with occasional mild cold spells. The current hypothesis suggests that once humans arrived, they could survive multiple climate changes and adapt to harsher conditions up to 900,000 years later.
The discovery of a severe glacial cooling event approximately 1.1 million years ago challenges the notion of unbroken early human settlement in Europe, as stated by Chronis Tzedakis (UCL Geography) senior author.
Paleoclimate scientists from UCL, the University of Cambridge, and CSIC Barcelona examined the chemical composition of marine micro-organisms and the pollen content in a deep-sea sediment core recovered from off the coast of Portugal. This revealed abrupt climate changes that culminated in extreme glacial cooling, with ocean surface temperatures off Lisbon dropping below 6°C and semi-deserts expanding on the adjacent land.
A new video produced by UCL researchers explains how paleoclimate evidence indicates that the southern European climate subsided approximately 1.1 million years ago, which may have contributed to the extinction of early humans on the continent.
The cooling that occurred 1.1 million years ago was comparable to some of the harshest ice age events, as noted by lead author Dr. Vasiliki Margari (UCL Geography).
Professor Nick Ashton, a co-author from the British Museum, suggested that small hunter-gatherer bands would have been subjected to significant stress due to the absence of adaptations such as firewood, clothing, and shelter.
Professor Axel Timmermann and his team from the IBS Center for Climate Physics at Pusan National University conducted a climate simulation on their supercomputer Aleph to capture the extreme conditions that existed during the early human populations. They combined the results of the simulation with fossil and archaeological evidence to create X-rays and simulated habitats, which were then used to develop Fig. 1’s human habitat model.
The climate around the Mediterranean was found to have become too unsuitable for archaic humans 1.1 million years ago, as stated by Professor Axel Timmermann.
Based on the paleoclimate data and human habitat model results, it is clear that Iberia, and particularly southern Europe, was depopulated during the Early Pleistocene. Furthermore, there appears to be no evidence of stone tools or relics from previous centuries, suggesting an extended period of European occupation.
According to Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London, Europe may have been recolonized by resilient humans with evolutionary or behavioral adaptations that enabled survival under the increasing harshness of glacial conditions.
The paper, Science, dated 10 August 2023, contains the text by Vasiliki Margari, David A. Hodell, Simon Afrofagcett, Nick M. Ashton, Joan O. Grimalt, Hyuna Kim, Kyung-Sook Yun, Philip L. Gibbard, Chris B. Stringer, Axel Timmermann and Polychronis C. Tzedakis, which suggests that hominin depopulation in Early Pleistocene Tchéchéstellung Zeitaktein und Kärty Ty
The research paper is available at the DOI address, 10.1126/science.adf4445.
The study was conducted by researchers from Cambridge University, CSIC Barcelona, the Natural History Museum, London, and the British Museum in collaboration with scientists from UCL Geography and IBS Center for Climate Physics at Pusan National University.