Archaeologists: Early Europeans Prospered Despite Abrupt Climate Change

Phlegraean Fields
Campi Flegrei – Italy’s restless super volcano. Stanley-goodspeed [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Archaeologists have overturned theories that climate change caused by a nearby super volcano eruption killed early European settlers.

First Europeans survived climate change following ‘super-eruption’ by working together, say archaeologists

Experts suggest we can learn from our prehistoric ancestors when tackling changing climate today

Josh Gabbatiss

Science Correspondent

Monday 16 April 2018 14:31 BST

Remains from a 40,000-year-old site have given archaeologistsinsight into how our ancestors dealt with prehistoric climate change.

According to the archaeologists working at the site, humans today can take lessons from our distant ancestors in contemporary approaches to tackling climate change.

“Liguria is where some of the first Homo sapiens, more or less our direct ancestors, lived in Europe,” said Professor Julien Riel-Salvatore, an archaeologist at the University of Montreal who co-authored the study with his Italian colleague, Dr Fabio Negrino.

“They came after the Neanderthals, and unlike them, when they were faced with sudden changes in their climate they didn’t go locally extinct or abandon the region – they adapted.

Such was the scale of the Phlegraean Fields eruption that archaeologists have suggested it played a significant role in the replacement of Neanderthals with modern humans in Europe.

As for why our ancestors were able to adapt while their Neanderthal cousins could not, Professor Riel-Salvatore said his excavations of the Liguria site offered some clues.

“It used to be thought that this wiped out most of the early Homo sapiens in Europe, but we’ve been able to show that some were able to deal with the situation just fine,” he said.

They survived by dealing with the uncertainty of sudden change.

Read more:

The abstract of the study;

Human adaptations to climatic change in Liguria across the Middle–Upper Paleolithic transition

Julien Riel‐Salvatore, Fabio Negrino

First published: 3 April 2018

There has been much focus on the disruptive effects of dramatic climatic shifts on Paleolithic population dynamics, but the topic of cultural continuity across such events has been less intensely investigated, despite its importance to the way archeologists think about the ways humans have interacted with their environment in the past. This paper presents data from western Liguria (Italy) and especially the site of Riparo Bombrini, to investigate the nature of the apparent resilience of the Proto‐Aurignacian technocomplex in the face of the Phlegrean Fields super‐eruption ca. 40 000 cal a BP and the general climatic instability during Marine Isotope Stage 3. While the Proto‐Aurignacian shows some internal variability that could reflect an adaptation to changing environmental conditions, overall it remains very stable in terms of its techno‐typology and social geography across these events. Additionally, the radiocarbon chronology for the site clearly shows that the Proto‐Aurignacian outlasts both the super‐eruption and Heinrich Event 4 as a whole, by as much as 2000 years. Comparisons with the regional Mousterian record indicate that the Proto‐Aurignacian marks the advent of a new way for humans to respond to climatic change, which opens up new avenues to reflect on the disappearance of the Mousterian.

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This finding echoes similar research earlier this year from England, which showed that early Britons prospered despite abrupt thousand year climate shifts of 2-6C which struck with full force in as little as a couple of months.

The evidence is that humans have nothing to fear from mild climate shifts which occur over a timescale of centuries. Our ancestors survived and prospered despite experiencing severe climate shifts far worse than any of us will ever face.

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April 16, 2018 2:13 pm

I would like to know where today’s alarmists get their information that a 2 degree rise in temperature would doom us. It’s nothing more than another catastrophic scenario without a basis. I don’t see it happening but what if if does due to natural variation?

Sweet Old Bob
Reply to  markl
April 16, 2018 2:22 pm

From their sacred leaders Or should that be scared ? The money / power might be slipping from their grasp ?

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  markl
April 16, 2018 2:47 pm

It was started by an economist and all the sheep followed and they adopted it in Paris. Actually, the Canadian lawyer turned climate expert made a motion to change it to 1.5 deg C.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  markl
April 16, 2018 3:23 pm

The best forecast on the evidence is we will get another 0.6 – 0.8C like we got last century, with a fair chance it could be cooler. CO2 by any objective reading of the data is proving to be a second order climate player.
The Pause taught us that natural variability is significant. If NV overwhelmed the T rise from CO2 to give us the Pause, then it is virtually certain that NV was a significant part of the late 20th Century warming as well. It can even be calculated. It gave rise to the 30s-40s rise which held the modern temperature record until Hansen and underlings pushed that high down in 2007! (another one of those pre retirement gifts to the faithful like Karl’s Karlization of the Pause).
These days, I unabashedly tell people in polite conversation concerning our continuing winter weather that a growing number of scientists think the expectation for warming would appear to have been 200% or more too high in earlier studies. I know that prominent members of the Team think this, too, from their testiness and loss of heart in trying to rationalize frozen sharks and thick ice off Boston harbour and the rescue and treatment of Gulf turtles whose body temperatures had dropped immobilizing them, as just your everyday garden variety global warming in action.
Trenberth was right when, in a fit of honesty, in one of the infamous UEA emails stated that it was a “travesty” that they had no explanation for the Pause. Unfortunately he couldn’t face his colleagues with what the answer had to be and lost forever the opportunity to hang on to the obvious integrity he possessed at the time -he chose to give a lame alternative Maxwell Smart type alternative.

Reply to  markl
April 16, 2018 3:50 pm

They same place they get most of their predictions from.
They made it up.
The original source of the 2C number was a paper that claimed that the MWP was 2C warmer than the LIA. From that they concluded that we could safely warm 2C, but after that, we would be in unknown territory.
From that it was a short jump to the claim that more than 2C was definitively bad and must be avoided at all costs. (to other people).

Reply to  MarkW
April 16, 2018 3:59 pm

Yet the Roman Warm Period was hotter than the Medieval, and the Minoan WP yet more hot than the Roman. The Holocene Climatic Optimum was probably even toastier than the Minoan.

Reply to  MarkW
April 16, 2018 5:07 pm

The numbers I’ve seen put the best estimate for the Holocene optimum at some 5C warmer than it is today.

Phil R
Reply to  markl
April 17, 2018 6:26 am


I would like to know where today’s alarmists get their information that a 2 degree rise in temperature would doom us. It’s nothing more than another catastrophic scenario without a basis. I don’t see it happening but what if if does due to natural variation?

Origin of the 2°C Limit Comment

Clearly a Political Goal
Rarely has a scientific idea had such a strong impact on world politics. Most countries have now recognized the two-degree target. If the two-degree limit were exceeded, German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen announced ahead of the failed Copenhagen summit, “life on our planet, as we know it today, would no longer be possible.”
But this is scientific nonsense. “Two degrees is not a magical limit — it’s clearly a political goal,” says Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). “The world will not come to an end right away in the event of stronger warming, nor are we definitely saved if warming is not as significant. The reality, of course, is much more complicated.”
Schellnhuber ought to know. He is the father of the two-degree target.
“Yes, I plead guilty,” he says, smiling. The idea didn’t hurt his career. In fact, it made him Germany’s most influential climatologist. Schellnhuber, a theoretical physicist, became Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief scientific adviser — a position any researcher would envy.

The story of the two-degree target began in the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU). Administration politicians had asked the council for climate protection guidelines, and the scientists under Schellnhuber’s leadership came up with a strikingly simple idea. “We looked at the history of the climate since the rise of homo sapiens,” Schellnhuber recalls. “This showed us that average global temperatures in the last 130,000 years were no more than two degrees higher than before the beginning of the industrial revolution. To be on the safe side, we came up with a rule of thumb stating that it would be better not to depart from this field of experience in human evolution. Otherwise we would be treading on terra incognita.”

April 16, 2018 2:33 pm

“Déjà vu all over again.”
Rock Models Suggest Phlegraean Fields Volcano More Likely To Erupt Than Previously Thought

April 16, 2018 2:33 pm

The current uncertainty of sudden change in the modern era is control of the WH with degree of over reach with exec orders in carrying out advocacy agenda. Climate doesn’t have anything to do with it.

April 16, 2018 2:40 pm

The evidence is that humans have nothing to fear from mild climate shifts which occur over a timescale of centuries. Our ancestors survived and prospered despite experiencing severe climate shifts far worse than any of us will ever face.

My ancestors experienced conditions that I would fear.
Why did humans survive? We cooperate. We also have an interesting balance of aggression and cooperation. link

Reply to  commieBob
April 16, 2018 3:53 pm

We also explore, experiment and most importantly, we learn.

Bob boder
Reply to  MarkW
April 17, 2018 11:18 am

sometimes we forget too!

Reply to  commieBob
April 16, 2018 6:31 pm

Yes, the extraordinary adaptation capacity is seen expressed today in technological one-up-manship (personship?) which continually results in new physical capability leaps, each with conmensurate enhanced adaptation and survival synergies.
Yeah, sure, humans won’t be able to adapt and cope with change. Who do the alarmists think they’re kidding?

Leo Smith
Reply to  WXcycles
April 17, 2018 12:03 am

Well alarmist cant even cope with a notional shift in temperature, let alone a real one.
Ergo Alarmists are at risk from dying out.

Gary Pearse
April 16, 2018 2:40 pm

Is the evidence just that they survived? Perhaps the area was warmed by the volcano with hot springs, long cooling of the subsurface magma etc. a la Yellowstone. They had to hunt game so wild life survived too. And what did they have before the eruption? They were in the middle of a glacial maximum! Sorry not up to old standards.

M Courtney
Reply to  Gary Pearse
April 16, 2018 2:48 pm

Technology is the key to adaptation.
They had stone age technology. That’s all.
But the fact that that was enough is interesting.

April 16, 2018 3:04 pm

The alarmists have no proof that CO2 causes dangerous warming, they have no proof that an (uneven) 2 degree rise in temperature of the atmosphere would be other than beneficial to us. They even do not have proof that CO2 causes any increase in atmospheric temperature in the face of the complex nature of the fluid atmosphere. All of CAGW/Global Warming Theory is a giant fable pushed forward by a bold political bluff based on people’s ignorance of science, mathematics and fluid dynamics.

Bruce Cobb
April 16, 2018 3:38 pm

Cheap, abundant energy and the systems to deliver it, and vibrant economies are the keys to adapting to whatever mother nature may have in store for us. In other words, the exact opposite of what Warmunists want.

April 16, 2018 3:48 pm

Many people forget Otzi, the Iceman, discovered in 1991 in the mountains. He died 5300 years ago, during the brief Copper Age. He died and was covered over so fast by snow and ice that he was preserved until the glacier began to retreat in 1991. Now the time he died in was certainly a time of rapid climate change at least in Europe.

Michael Kelly
Reply to  Edwin
April 16, 2018 9:23 pm

I think you’re forgetting that Otzi was discovered with a ski-lift ticket in his pocket that specifically indemnified Gaia from any abrupt freezing which may or may not occur during his excursion into the mountains. So, yes, he did die during rapid climate change….but he was warned!

Reply to  Michael Kelly
April 17, 2018 11:37 am

He also had an expired Costco card and a Swiss bank account. His last name was Gore. Otzi Gore has a nice ring to it.

April 16, 2018 6:10 pm

Mtn monkies can have the empathy gene, something lacking at lower elevations

April 16, 2018 6:16 pm

Campi Fleigri and the Alban Hills complex are both showing signs of activity. It’s all part of the same complex of volcanism. The Alban Hills complex is south of Rome. Campi Flegri is off the western shore of Italy, slight southwest of Rome. Some of this is directly related to quakes like the quake that hit Aquila a few years ago – the ground hasn’t stopped quivering there.
And some of it has to do with the triple plate boundary in Ethiopia. It’s all connected, all of it. Remember, Sinai was erupting when Moses hiked up there to talk to God. The seas parted when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt guided by a pillar of smoke by day, a pillar of fire by night. Sounds like a volcanic eruption to me. I believe that Ootzi the Iceman took his hike in the Alps and Minoa was destroyed, too, all in the same time period.
Just wondering here what the Doomsday Cult of Gorebull Warming will do when some of these uncontrollable parts of the planet take matters into their own hands and change things forever.
Out of curiosity, since the last time the magnetic poles flipped was about 640,000 years ago, and we’re due for another, does anyone want to speculate on how it will affect surface weather?

April 16, 2018 6:54 pm

Our ice age ancestors in Europe and northern Asia, either died or moved south when ice age temperatures fell by another 2.0C.
One issue which is not understood is that they had no firewood in these conditions. There was no trees in most of the planet and especially in ice age Europe.
One particular group in southern Russia right at this time, actually stored tons of Mammoth bones right at the camp edge. Mammoth bones apparently burn very well especially when the marrow catches.
This what is was like. -45C temperatures in the winter are extremely scary and dangerous. If you do not have fire going all the time, a naked ape is dead.
We did not live in the middle of a glacier in ice age Europe. If a tribe was trying to survive in Germany during the ice age (with glaciers 20 kms away) and then temperatures fell by another 2.0C, well that tribe was dead.
The Inuit of the Arctic learned to use sea mammal blubber to make fires. If humans did not have a way to keep their tents warm, they were dead. Or someone said, “we have to move south now or we are dead”.

Reply to  Bill Illis
April 16, 2018 7:04 pm

During the LGM, humans survived in Western Europe in the refugium on southern France and Iberia, home to the Solutrean culture. They probably relied on marine mammals and birds, as well as reindeer and big game. They possibly made forays onto the steppe tundra in summer, following migrating herds, but that seems more representative of the following Magdalenian culture.
Bone burns, as do fat and dried megafaunal dung. A tent inside a tent inside a cave can be kept cozy with an animal fat lamp and body heat even when it’s really cold outside.

Reply to  Chimp
April 16, 2018 7:28 pm

“Humans today can take lessons from our ancient ancestors in contemporary approaches to tackling climate change”.
Ice age Europe in northern Italy and a super-volcano goes off. The Homo sapiens probably had an extremely hard time of it and probably didn’t survive but we ARE supposed to take climate change lessons from them. This whole religion is impossible to have a factual discussion with.

M E. Emberson.
April 16, 2018 11:36 pm

Something of interest if talking of glacial refugia. This study is in S America and the authors are interested in possible forest expansion onto the continental shelf.
Neotropical forest expansion during the last glacial period challenges refuge hypothesis.
Yuri L. R. Leite, Leonora P. Costa, Ana Carolina Loss, Rita G. Rocha, Henrique Batalha-Filho, Alex C. Bastos, Valéria S. Quaresma, Valéria Fagundes, Roberta Paresque, Marcelo Passamani and Renata Pardini
“Global sea levels dropped to a maximum of −150 m during Quaternary Glacial Maxima, and the average Quaternary sea level was around −62 m (8). The southeastern South American coastline thus would have been displaced hundreds of kilometers to the east during glacial periods, exposing one of the widest shelves in the world, the Brazilian continental shelf (9) (Fig. 3). This expanded available surface area has not been taken into account in any regional paleoecological reconstruction to date. ”
I know very little about Palaeolithic Archaeology but I remember lectures about glacial refugia in my student days.

April 17, 2018 3:42 am

Similarly Middle Paleolithic humans survived the giant ash rain in South India from the Youngest Toba Tuff (YTT) eruption, which occurred in Indonesia 74,000 years ago, is one of Earth’s largest known volcanic events:

April 17, 2018 5:41 am

early Britons prospered despite abrupt thousand year climate shifts of 2-6C
In my area people do fine w/6-month “climate shifts” that are far more than just 2-6C. Then there’s the 10C shifts every 12 hrs too.

J Mac
April 17, 2018 10:20 am

“They survived by dealing with the uncertainty of sudden change.”
Creative adaptation is an essential survival and evolutionary trait. We would not be here today if even one of our direct lineage ancestors had failed to adapt and survive.

Kristi Silber
April 17, 2018 3:56 pm

Too bad we aren’t still nomadic hunter-gatherers at low population levels all living in an area where climate change will mean benefit. I’ve no doubt the human species will survive, and some will thrive. Sucks for those who don’t, but that’s life, eh? Survival of the richest.

Reply to  Kristi Silber
April 17, 2018 4:00 pm

Any climate change thanks to more CO2 threatens no one, rich or poor. So far more plant food in the air has been a good thing and more would be better.
There is no risk of any consequence to which the world can’t adapt.

April 17, 2018 6:14 pm

While ‘early’ Man may have handled such changes relatively easily, they were a far different species to that which roams the world now.
They knew how to provide their own food and clothing, how to make weapons and hunt and more.
99% of today’s humans couldn’t find their arse with both hands, let alone provide a survival diet and shelter for their family.
Half of them would suicide because they couldn’t find toilet paper. 😀

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