Taxonomy term

human history

Did early agriculture knock the climate off track?

During the last 2.5 million years, Earth’s climate has seen cycles of advancing and retreating glaciers over much of the Northern Hemisphere. We are currently in a warm, interglacial period — one that’s been prolonged by increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane. According to a new study in Nature, these high concentrations of greenhouse gases have disrupted the recent pattern of cycling in Earth’s climate and pushed back the next ice age. The study also suggests that human activity, beginning thousands of years ago with early agriculture and continuing through to the present day, has fueled the rise in greenhouse gas concentrations.

12 Dec 2018

Japanese diaries show sun's cycle sparks lightning on Earth

The effects of solar cycles on Earth’s climate over timeframes of thousands of years are well documented, but the shorter-term effects on weather are less understood. A new study using ancient Japanese diaries to track storms in the 18th and 19th centuries suggests that one of the sun’s shortest cycles — the 27-day rotational period — may play a role in stimulating lightning on Earth.

15 Nov 2018

Turning modern "eyes" on ancient sites

People have inhabited Jerash, Jordan, since the Neolithic. But much of its history has been buried by subsequent occupation, including over the last two centuries. Archaeologists have excavated Jerash with trowels and screens to uncover its long history, but now, with the help of lidar and old photographs, a team of researchers is discovering more about Jerash’s past by gazing down on the city from the sky.

13 Nov 2018

Ancient DNA reveals diversity of Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the most genetically and linguistically diverse regions on Earth. New sequencing of ancient human DNA is helping scientists piece together the puzzle of how repeated influxes of hunter-gatherers and farmers to the area over the last 50,000 years created the high level of diversity seen today.

03 Sep 2018

Sunstones useful as Viking-era GPS

The Vikings ruled the North Atlantic for hundreds of years without the benefits of magnetic compasses on the rough, often stormy waters. Legends have told of Vikings using sun compasses during clear weather and “sunstones” in cloudy conditions to navigate their weeks-long journeys between ports. A new study finds that sunstones made of calcite, cordierite or tourmaline may have indeed been accurate navigational tools.

28 Aug 2018

Travels in Geology: The pyramids of Giza: Wonders of an ancient world

At the edge of Cairo, three massive pyramids rise from the Giza Plateau’s Mokattam Formation, which comprises of layers of middle Eocene limestones and dolomites. These rocks, which display fossil evidence of their origins at the bottom of the Tethys Sea some 50 million years ago, provided the millions of multiton blocks used to construct the pyramids.
16 Aug 2018

Geologic Column: The raw and the cooked

A humorous take on some paleoanthropological aspects of fire.

23 Jul 2018

Did a massive eruption spur Christianity in Iceland?

The landscape and culture of Iceland, more so than any other country, have been shaped by volcanism. In a new study, researchers have refined the dates for the massive 10th-century Eldgjá eruption, which occurred just a few decades after the island was first settled. The findings may support a connection between the violent volcanism depicted in Iceland’s most celebrated medieval poem and the island’s conversion from paganism to Christianity.

29 Jun 2018

Weedy seeds gathered in once-green Sahara

Today, the vast and arid Sahara Desert seems an unlikely place to find early signs of seed gathering and plant cultivation in Africa, but new evidence shows that, 10,000 years ago, people were collecting, sorting and saving seeds near a rock shelter known as Takarkori.

28 Jun 2018

Travels in Geology: Underground awe in France: The caves of the Causses

The Causses du Quercy region in south-central France has been transformed into a karstic wonderland by the slow dissolution of limestone. The resulting caves, which served as shelters for early humans who left their bones, tools and art for us to ponder, are both geologically and paleoanthropologically fascinating.

06 Apr 2018

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