Early humans in Europe endured very cold climates, researchers find

Researchers at the German Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the National Institute for Archeology with Museum of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences discovered that hominids who lived in the Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria 43,000-46,000 years ago were exposed to extreme cold.

Archaeological remains from the cave are the oldest evidence of the Upper Paleolithic homo sapiens in Europe and are important for exploring the diaspora of early humans from the Middle East to Europe during the early Upper Paleolithic.

Although most archaeological models suggest that early humans were able to migrate to new environments because of the warmer climate, the Max Planck researchers found that homo sapiens endured very cold temperatures for millennia by analyzing the tooth enamel of animals slaughtered by humans in the cave.

“Our evidence shows that these groups of people were more flexible about the environments they used and more adaptable to different climatic conditions than previously thought,” said Sarah Pederzani, one of the researchers.

“With these new findings, new models of the distribution of our species in Eurasia must now be constructed that take their greater climatic flexibility into account,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, director of the department for human evolution at the Max Planck Institute, in a press release by the Institute.

Skeleton of a mammoth, in the George C. Page Museum, Los Angeles, California (Credit: WOLFMANSF / WIKI COMMONS)

The study, published on Science.org, found that cold climates “might explain the unusual occurrences of woolly mammoths, reindeer, giant deer and wolverines in the fauna records for that period at this location.”

The study added that the presence of other animals adapted to warmer temperatures, including deer, could indicate a changeable climate, although much of the archaeological record is unlikely to have been made during warmer periods. It also found that the occurrence of both species adapted to warmer conditions and species adapted to colder conditions can be explained by the geographic diversity of the region.

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