Uncovering the Link between Climate Change and Technological Progress in Ancient Times

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Two recent studies examine the traces left in unconventional materials to shed light on ancient human history.
The first study focuses on the Middle to Later Stone Age transition and uses fossilized urine from rock hyraxes to build a high-resolution regional climate history for South Africa.
The second study uses urine residue found in sand to trace the emergence of animal husbandry in ancient Turkey, challenging the widely held belief that the Neolithic Revolution had a single birthplace in the Fertile Crescent.
Unconventional sources of evidence, such as fossilized urine and feces, can yield valuable information about the past and help us better understand how ancient societies lived, adapted, and progressed.
Interdisciplinary research and collaboration are crucial in advancing our understanding of the past, and new technologies and techniques are likely to lead to even more insights into the lives of our ancestors.

 

Two recent studies shed light on ancient human history by examining the traces left in unlikely materials such as urine residue and marmot-like critters’ feces.

The first study was conducted by a team of archaeologists, paleoclimatologists, and paleoecologists from various universities, including the University of Utah and New York University.

The study examines the relationship between climate change and the dramatic technological and cultural changes that occurred during the Middle to Later Stone Age transition.

This transition took place between 66,000 and 25,000 years ago.

The second study, conducted by a graduate student from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, uses urine residue found in sand to trace the emergence of animal husbandry in ancient Turkey.

The First Study: Marmot-like Critters’ Urine as Climate Records

Paleoclimatologist Tyler Faith from the University of Utah led a team of researchers to collect fossilized urine from rock hyraxes living in South Africa’s Swartberg mountain range.

The urine, which hardens quickly in the air, provides a record of the ancient climate, including information about the plants that grew and the wildfires that raged at that time.

Moreover, it also preserves chemical isotopes indicating precipitation and temperature.

The researchers are using the information to build a high-resolution regional climate history for South Africa and to investigate the links between ancient climate change and the Middle to Later Stone Age transition.

Paleoecologist Lynne Quick, who is part of the research team, explained that the study is crucial in understanding the relationship between climate and technological change during the Later Stone Age.

By examining Boomplaas Cave’s continuous record, one of the few archaeological sites with a rich record of the transition, the researchers can accurately radiocarbon-date the hyrax middens and compare the climate data with the artifacts discovered in the same area.

Paleoecologist Lynne Quick, who is part of the research team, explained that the study is crucial in understanding the relationship between climate and technological change during the Later Stone Age.

While most attempts to link climate change to the transition have been based on general, global climate trends, South Africa’s paleoclimate is still not well known.

This makes the hyrax middens an invaluable resource for the researchers. The team hopes that the study’s findings will shed light on the contentious relationship between climate and technological progress during the Later Stone Age transition.

The Second Study: Urine Residue as Evidence of Animal Husbandry

Jordan Abell, a graduate student from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, led a team of researchers in examining the urine residue found in sand near the modern city of Aksaray, Turkey.

The study reveals that the numbers of humans, sheep, and goats at the settlement increased dramatically some ten thousand years ago, indicating that Middle Easterners may have given up hunting and gathering over a period of just three hundred years.

The findings challenge the widely held belief that the Neolithic Revolution, the transition to farming, had a single birthplace in the Fertile Crescent, to the south of Turkey.

Instead, the study suggests that the revolution occurred in several locations simultaneously.

The study’s use of urine residue to trace the emergence of animal husbandry is unusual but effective.

Urine hardens into a crust over time, preserving its chemical makeup and allowing researchers to analyze its contents.

Abell’s study is just one of many that use non-traditional sources of evidence to shed light on ancient human history.

Conclusion

The two studies discussed above highlight the importance of unconventional sources of evidence in understanding ancient human history.

By examining the traces left behind in fossilized urine and feces, researchers can learn more about the climate, animal husbandry, and technological progress of ancient societies.

The studies are just a few examples of the many innovative approaches that archaeologists, paleoclimatologists, and paleoecologists are using to better understand the past.

The use of non-traditional sources of evidence is particularly important in areas where traditional archives like ice cores, cave deposits, and lake records are scarce or non-existent.

The first study, conducted by a team of researchers from various universities, focuses on the Middle to Later Stone Age transition, a period when humans made significant advancements in technology and culture.

By examining fossilized urine from rock hyraxes, the researchers can build a high-resolution regional climate history for South Africa and investigate the links between climate change and technological progress.

The study’s findings could help shed light on the contentious relationship between climate and technological progress during the Later Stone Age transition.

The second study, conducted by a graduate student from Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, uses urine residue found in sand to trace the emergence of animal husbandry in ancient Turkey.

The study challenges the widely held belief that the Neolithic Revolution had a single birthplace in the Fertile Crescent and suggests that it occurred in several locations simultaneously.

The study’s use of urine residue to trace the emergence of animal husbandry is innovative and effective, highlighting the importance of unconventional sources of evidence in understanding ancient human history.

Both studies illustrate the importance of interdisciplinary research in understanding the past. 

The researchers involved in these studies come from different fields, including archaeology, paleoclimatology, and paleoecology, and their collaboration has led to new insights into ancient human history.

These studies also show that the use of unconventional sources of evidence can yield valuable information about the past and help us better understand how ancient societies lived, adapted, and progressed.

In conclusion, the two studies discussed above demonstrate the importance of unconventional sources of evidence in understanding ancient human history. 

By using fossilized urine and feces, researchers can learn more about the climate, animal husbandry, and technological progress of ancient societies.

These studies also highlight the importance of interdisciplinary research and collaboration in advancing our understanding of the past.

As new technologies and techniques emerge, we can expect to gain even more insights into the lives of our ancestors and how they shaped the world we live in today.

Craig Miller

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