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Homo sapiens: arrival in a freezing cold Europe

Homo sapiens : Arrival in an ice-cold Europe

Analyzes of around 45 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; year old animal teeth from Bulgaria suggest a new climate scenario for the colonization of Europe: It wasn't exactly warm when Homo sapiens & nbsp; came. by Karin Schlott Excavations in the Bulgarian Bacho Kiro cave in 2021. © MPI-EVA/Tsenka Tsanova/Excavation work in the Bacho Kiro cave in the 2021 season/CC BY-SA 2.0 CC BY-SA (excerpt)

When the first anatomically modern humans reached the European continent around 45 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; years ago, it was significantly colder there than previously assumed. Sarah Pederzani from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig and her colleagues in the journal »Science Advances« are said to have had almost sub-Arctic conditions. So far, climate models have suggested that Homo sapiens always headed north from Africa to Europe and Asia in warmer phases. The opposite is now suggested by isotope analyzes on animal teeth from the Bulgarian Bacho-Kiro cave. They would suggest temperatures that averaged around 14 degrees Celsius lower than today.

In 2020, the Max Planck scientists identified the oldest known remains of Homo sapiens in Europe in the Bacho Kiro cave. Now they evaluated between 61 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; and 43 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; year old animal teeth from the cave. Some of the animals were once captured and slaughtered by humans. The investigated remains come from horses and aurochs, other bones from the cave, but also from species that were primarily native to colder regions, such as the woolly mammoth.

In order to reconstruct the climatic conditions at that time, Pederzani determined the strontium and oxygen isotopes that were stored in the tooth enamel during growth. The isotope signature also provides information about where a living being grew up. The strontium values ​​of the animal teeth showed hardly any fluctuations, apparently the wild animals had not migrated over long distances. The result for the oxygen isotopes is different: Pederzani and her colleagues derived the temperature ranges from this, which were comparable to Scandinavian conditions. According to the researchers, the people of the later Paleolithic were significantly more flexible and adapted to harsh temperatures more easily than expected.

The fact that Homo sapiens could cope with very cold climates also suggests the colonization of America, more than 15 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; to 20 & nbsp; 000 & nbsp; years & nbsp; – maybe even earlier. At that time, hunters and gatherers had advanced from eastern Siberia via Beringia to the American continent.

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