2018-03-12 17:22:42 UTC
at the site following the eruption of Mt. Toba 74,000 years ago.
"About 74,000 years ago, a colossal volcano in Sumatra named Toba blew
its top in the largest eruption to occur anywhere on Earth in the past 2
million years. Gas and ashes spewed into the atmosphere spread around
the world within weeks, and some scientists think they triggered a
global ³volcanic winter² that may have lasted decades, leading to
massive die-offs and the near-extinction of the human species. But
others have suggested that the eruption¹s effects were less dramatic.
Now, subtle traces of volcanic ash at Pinnacle Point, a famous
archaeological site on the southern coast of South Africa, suggest that
at least some groups of early humans survived, and even thrived, in the
eruption¹s aftermath. The discovery also offers archaeologists an
astonishingly precise time marker for dating sites around the globe."
"At Pinnacle Point, artifacts found just below and directly above the
traces of ash show no gap in human use of the site, Marean and his
colleagues report today in Nature. In fact, they say, the traces of
human occupation intensify shortly after the volcano¹s eruption,
suggesting that humans living there did just fine, Marean says. The
Pinnacle Point people are known to have eaten shellfish and other marine
resources, and he speculates that the ocean may have been buffered from
the volcano¹s effect. ³Hunter-gatherer economies are really resilient,²
Marean says. ³The impact on them is probably a lot less² than on flora
But archaeologist Stanley Ambrose of the University of Illinois in
Urbana, who proposed the idea that Toba¹s eruption wiped out most early
humans, isn¹t convinced. Marean¹s team found sandy layers just above the
ash traces, which Ambrose says are indeed a sign of dramatic
environmental change and a decrease in human occupation. Marean counters
that those layers were part of a series of sand dunes that formed in a
matter of days or weeks after the eruption and include human artifacts.
³So no evidence for abandonment,² he says. Looking for volcanic traces
at other sites could help settle the debate, he says."