Humanity ‘survived and coped with’ an ancient supervolcano apocalypse, scientists find


Tough bands of hunter-gatherers were able to adapt to climate change caused by prehistoric cataclysm (Image: AP)

An ancient natural disaster which took place 74,000 years ago did not have as catastrophic an effect on humanity as was once assumed, researchers have claimed.

The Toba ‘super-eruption’ was an epic explosion which threw huge amounts of dust and debris into the air.

It was believed this cataclysm cast Earth into a volcanic winter which lasted six years, cooled the climate for 1,000 more and almost caused the extinction of our species.

But in a study published in the respected journal Nature, scientists have set forth a different argument based on analysis of archaeological evidence, claiming the eruption did not have quite as dramatic an effect on humanity as was previously believed.

Lead author Professor Chris Clarkson from The University of Queensland said that human populations who lived in Dhaba, India, were using stone tools similar to those being used by people in Africa at the same time.

‘These toolkits were present at Dhaba before and after the Toba super-eruption, indicating that populations survived the so-called catastrophe,’ Professor Clarkson said.

This is one of the tools used by ancient human populations

‘A prominent theory is that the few human survivors in Africa coped by developing more sophisticated social, symbolic and economic strategies, in turn enabling them to repopulate Africa and then migrate into Europe, Asia and Sahul by 60-50,000 years ago.’

His thesis suggests archaeological evidence from Africa, India and Asia ‘supports the idea that the Toba eruption had minimal effects on humans’.

‘In fact, archaeological sites in southern Africa show human populations thrived following the Toba super-eruption,’ Professor Clarkson added.

‘Climate and vegetation records from Lake Malawi in East Africa likewise show no evidence for a volcanic winter at the time of the eruption.

‘In Sumatra, close to the eruption itself, colleagues found Homo sapiens teeth which dated back to 73,000-63,000 years ago.

‘This indicates Homo sapiens was living in Sumatra in a closed canopy rainforest environment soon after the eruption.’

These new findings suggest that small bands of hunter-gatherers were able to adapt to climate change.

‘While the Toba super-eruption was certainly a colossal event, this natural disaster may only have had a minor impact on human populations living in India at the time,’ Professor Clarkson said.





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