How Early Humans Survived the Ice Age

The most recent ice age peaked between 24,000 and 21,000 years ago, when vast ice sheets covered North America and northern Europe, and mountain ranges like Africa’s Mt. Kilimanjaro and South America’s Andes were encased in glaciers. At that point our Homo sapiens ancestors had migrated from the warm African heartland into northern European and Eurasian latitudes severely impacted by the sinking temperatures. Armed with big, creative brains and sophisticated tools, though, these early modern humans—nearly identical to ourselves physically—not only survived, but thrived in their harsh surroundings.

With the advent of language, knowledge about the natural world and new technologies could be shared between neighboring bands of humans, and also passed down from generation to generation via storytellers. “They had institutional memory through symbolic storytelling, which gave them a relationship with the forces of the environment, the supernatural forces which governed their world.” Also through music, dance and art, our ancestors collected and transmitted vast amounts of information about the seasons, edible plants, animal migrations, weather patterns and more. The elaborate cave paintings at sites like Lascaux and Chauvet in France display the intimate understanding that late ice age humans possessed about the natural world, especially the prey animals they depended on for survival.

The last ice age corresponds with the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000 to 10,000 years ago), in which humans made great leaps forward in tool-making and weaponry, including the first tools used exclusively for making other tools. One of the most important of these was called a burin, a humble-looking rock chisel that was used to cut grooves and notches into bone and antler, lightweight material that was also hard and durable.

The intricate spearheads and harpoon tips made from that bone and antler were small and light enough to be carried on foot by hunters over long distances, and were also detachable and interchangeable, creating the first compound tools. When the first humans migrated to northern climates about 45,000 years ago, they devised rudimentary clothing to protect themselves from the cold. They draped themselves with loose-fitting hides that doubled as sleeping bags, baby carriers and hand protection for chiseling stone. But everything changed around 30,000 years ago with the most important invention in human history: the needle.”If you saw a needle from 20,000 or 30,000 years ago, you’d know what it was in an instant, a very fine-pointed tool with a hole in one end to put thread Like modern mountaineering clothing, clothes from the late ice age were meant to be worn in layers.

An ice-age tailor would carefully select different animal skins—reindeer, arctic foxes, hares, even birds like ptarmigans—and sew together three or four layers, from moisture-wicking underwear to waterproof pants and parkas. Thread was made from wild flax and other vegetable fibres and even dyed different colors like turquoise and pink. The result was a fitted, versatile wardrobe that fully protected its wearer from sub-freezing temperatures. For shelter in the coldest months, our ice age ancestors didn’t live deep in caves as Victorian archeologists once believed, but they did make homes in natural rock shelters. These were usually roomy depressions cut into the walls of riverbeds beneath a protective overhang.3 there’s strong evidence that ice age humans made extensive modifications to weatherproof their rock shelters.

They draped large hides from the overhangs to protect themselves from piercing winds, and built internal tent-like structures made of wooden poles covered with sewn hides. All of this was situated around a blazing hearth, which reflected heat and light off the rock walls. In the brief summer months, the hunters would move out into the open plains that stretched from the Atlantic coast of Europe all the way to Siberia. With cold temperatures persisting at night, shelter was taken in dome-shaped huts partially dug into the earth.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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