How climate shaped human evolution image

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Archaeological: having to do with the studies of material culture and materials of humans.

Harpoon: a long tool used for spearing fish; often barbed, with backward-facing points to secure the fish. ... more

Microlith: a small stone tool mounted onto a piece of wood or bone to make an arrow or similar tool. ... more

Middle Stone Age: a stone tool industry that originated in Africa from 280,000 years ago. ... more

Projectile technology: a tool or weapon that can be shot at a target from a distance.

Climate change and humans

We use warm, waterproof clothes like this as a tool to protect us from snow. Image by Terry Korte. If the weather changes with seasons throughout the year where you live, your wardrobe likely does too. You bundle up with a jacket and scarf in winter and strip down to a bathing suit during the summer. Whether you realize it or not, clothes are a technology that is vital to humans. We’re the only mammal species that can live in almost any environment on Earth, mostly due to our clothing.

Technology was also important to the survival of early members of our species, Homo sapiens. Early Homo sapiens had to cope with huge swings of climate over the last 200,000 years. The archaeological record shows us that many new tools or technologies appeared with new climates. This is probably because climate change causes food resources to change. So, a food that was once abundant may later be gone or vice versa.

The Middle Stone Age record shows us how early humans started eating new foods when climates changed. At Katanda, a site in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, barbed harpoons for fishing and a bunch of fish bones were found. These remains show us that some early Homo sapiens were relying on fish for most of their diet by 90,000 years ago.

Harpoons like these were used by Middle Stone Age people 90,000 years ago to hunt large catfish in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Image by Didier Descouens.Pinnacle Point, a site in South Africa, shows us that 70,000 years ago humans were making microliths. These small, sharp points were likely mounted to arrows and shot with a bow. So far, the archaeological record shows that Homo sapiens are the only species to have produced projectile technology. Such technology would have let early humans hunt large and dangerous animals, like buffalo, from a distance. This would reduce the risk of getting hurt. Species like Neanderthals, who never used projectile technology, were in great danger when they would hunt with hand-held spears.

When did human ancestors use stone tools?
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