Tag: ice age

Imagine facing this

bear
photo by Randa Williams

This is a short face bear. I was writing Strong Heart, a tale of the wilderness, the coast, and an ornery young girl seeking home, when one of these leapt into my story. The bear pictured here is at the Royal Museum in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. I barely reach up to its paws. This animal could reach as high as 15 feet, run 40 miles an hour, weighed two tons, and only ate meat. It was the largest land mammal predator that ever lived. Ever. We humans shared the earth with this animal until 12,000 years ago. Imagine running into one of these.  Just imagine.

Manis Mastodon spear point

This doesn’t look like much but it is astounding. This is a piece of bone found about 40 years ago in Sequim, Washington – a mastodon skeleton was discovered when Mr. Manis was digging out a pond on his field on the Olympic Peninsula. A mastodon is sort of like an elephant but a little smaller. The little lighter thing in the middle is actually a spear point, stuck in the bone, also of mastodon bone.  There is a sweet but tiny exhibit in Sequim that displays the bones and this point and I took the picture when I visited  few weeks ago. Here’s the thing. This bone, and spear point in it, have been dated to 13,800 years old. It is one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, proven evidence of early humans in North America, right here on the Olympic Peninsula in the shadow of Olympic National Park. People used to think the great ice covered this area that long ago, but apparently not. Apparently parts of the peninsula were a refuge from the ice, and maybe the hunters who took this animal lived there.

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Ice Age Population

Ice age Europeans on the brink of extinction

Ice-age Europeans roamed in small bands of fewer than 30, on brink of extinction (Horizon magazine)

In some cases, small bands of potentially as few as 20 to 30 people could have been moving over very large areas, over the whole of Europe as a single territory, according to Professor Ron Pinhasi, principal investigator on the EU-funded ADNABIOARC project.

This demographic model is based on new evidence that suggests populations were much smaller than is generally thought to be a stable size for healthy reproduction, usually around 500 people. Such small groupings may have led to reduced fitness and even extinctions.

‘As an archaeologist and anthropologist, I was quite shocked to see how limited, how small the population numbers were. You know, shockingly small,’ said Prof. Pinhasi, based at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Prof. Pinhasi’s team has found that the genomes sequenced from hunter-gatherers from Hungary and Switzerland between 14 000 to 7 500 years ago are very close to specimens from Denmark or Sweden from the same period.

These findings suggest that genetic diversity between inhabitants of most of western and central Europe after the ice age was very limited, indicating a major demographic bottleneck triggered by human isolation and extinction during the ice age.

‘We’re starting to be able to reconstruct the actual dynamics of migrations and colonisation of the continent by modern humans and that’s never been done before the genomic era,’ explained Prof. Pinhasi.

He believes that early humans crossed the continent in small groups that were cut off while the ice was at its peak, then successively dispersed and regrouped over thousands of years, with dwindling northern populations invigorated by humans arriving from the south, where the climate was better.

‘You see a real reduction in population numbers and diversity, so you see the few lineages that probably split or separated before the ice age, and then stayed isolated during the ice age,’ he said. ‘Some time after the ice age, they kind of re-emerge, or disperse, and get together, as we see new contributions to European lineages from Asia and in particular the Near East.’

Berengia

The exposed plain below the Bering Sea, dry land during the ice times, is now being considered as a possible place people lived before they entered North America. Check this article out: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/343/6174/979.short

When did modern humans first appear in North America? How did they get here? Through the “ice free corridor” or along the coast? What do you think?