HUMANPAST.NET

Environment                  7,000 BC
Africa
Southwest Asia
Egypt
Indus Valley
China
Europe
South America
Mesoamerica
North America
Other

In General

 And let's not forget that the earth by this time - 8000 years ago - has already suffered the consequences of 7000 years of intense volcanism, 7000 years of rising sea-levels and sudden and unpredictable marine floods, 7000 years of continental shelves, land-bridges and islands vanishing beneath the waves, and 7000 years of spectacular climatic instability. Indeed, the palaeo-climatological record testifies to all of the following - and much more - between 15,000 and 8,000 years ago: cold oceans, high winds, mountains of dust in the atmosphere and wildly unpredictable temperature shifts. (124)

During the same 10,000-year epoch in which the ice melted and global sea-level rose by 120 metres - roughly from 17,000 down to 7000 years ago - our planet also experienced dramatically increased volcanism, dramatically increased frequency and magnitude of earthquakes, and a dramatically unstable climate that seesawed rapidly and unpredictably between extremes. (124)

                                                                                                          MOST RECENT DATE
COMMON NAME                              GENUS                                   BEFORE PRESENT

CHEETAH                                           Acinonyx                                           17,000
PECCARY                                           Platygonus                                         13,000
SHORT-FACED BEAR                       Arctodus                                            12,600
PRONGHORN                                    Stockoceros                                       11,300
WOODLAND MUSK OX                  Symbos                                               11,100
MAMMOTH                                       Mammuthus                                         10,500
MASTODON                                      Mammut                                              10,400
LION                                                   Panthera                                              10,400
HORSE                                                Equus                                                  10,400
CAMEL                                               Camelops                                            10,300
STAG-MOOSE                                   Cervalces                                             10,200
GIANT BEAVER                                 Castoroides                                          10,200
GIANT GROUND SLOTH                  Glossotherium                                        9,800
SABERTOOTH                                    Smilodon                                               9,400
TAPIR                                                   Tapirus                                                  9,400
                                  
In this list, as in more complete ones, the apparent extinction dates cluster between 11,000 and 9,500 years ago. This was the time that the climate, local weather, and ecosystems of North America were undergoing a spectacularly rapid upheaval. It is also the time when other creatures that could also be called charismatic megafauna thrived - the hunters of the Clovis culture and the ensuing Folsom culture. (130)

One of the great unknowns of any analysis of human social development during the warm conditions after the Younger Dryas is just how much evidence has been swept away by the rise in sea levels. If, as seems likely, some of the most stable and best-fed communities would have quickly developed close to seashores, any evidence of their existence will have long gone. The simple fact of the matter is that this rise in sea levels drowned or washed away evidence of nearly all earlier coastal adaptation everywhere around the world. (145)

Africa

 Rock art dating to 5000 BC corroborates what the radar equipment revealed. In Libya, Egypt, and Mali, petroglyphs depict not only grazing animals, but also aquatic life such as crocodiles. This indicates that the desert was inhabited during a time prior to 4000 BC and as far back as 8000 BC, when the climate was wet. (70)

The climatic record is, however, unequivocal: for most of the time between around 14 kya and 5 kya the Sahara experienced a monsoonal climate. The region had considerably greater rainfall than now and much of the land had permanent vegetation. (145)

Southwest Asia

 The climates and physical geography of Southwest Asia have been much the same for the past nine thousand years, with some variations. Human alterations of river courses, deforestation, and climate changes have so greatly altered the landscape (and probably even micro climates) that we may never have an entirely clear picture of what Southwest Asia was like as a natural landscape when its first civilizations began forming. (46)

Between 13,000 BC and 4000 BC sea levels rose significantly as ice sheets melted. Meteorologists suggest that there was increased rainfall in the Near East in this era and botanists point to increased plant life. (68)

As the sea-level rises the Gulf continues to expand and the marine influence spreads into the northern region. By about 10,000 BP the north-east margin of the Gulf has approached its present position in several localities, particularly east of about 52 degrees longitude. Much of the southern part of the Gulf remains exposed until about 8000 BP and areas such as the Great Pearl Bank are not submerged until shortly after this time. (124)

The steadily rising sea levels might have had a more profound effect on coastal communities where large areas were inundated in fits and starts. For example, this could have happened in the Persian Gulf. This enclosed sea goes no deeper than 100 m, and much of the seabed is only about 40 m below the present-day surface. When sea levels were 120 m lower the gulf would have been dry land 20 kya, and the ancestral river system of the Tigris and Euphrates flowed through the deepest part of the gulf, a canyon cut by the river waters to the Indian Ocean. The postglacial rise in sea level inundated the floor of the gulf between 15 and 6 kya. The sea advanced more than 1000 km, forcing any people living there to abandon their settlements. (145)

The climatic record is, however, unequivocal: for most of the time between around 14 kya and 5 kya the Sahara experienced a monsoonal climate. The region had considerably greater rainfall than now and much of the land had permanent vegetation. (145)

Recent results obtained from a speleothem in Oman provide a record of the summer monsoon (July to September) between 10.3 and 2.7 kya and between 1.4 and 0.4 kya. This shows a marked long-term decline from high levels between 10 and 8 kya including a notably dry period between 5.5 and 5 kya. (145)

Egypt

As the climate grew more humid around 8000 BC, rainfall turned low-lying areas into lakes and playas. With the onset of this "Neolithic pluvial," the region we now know as Egypt became an extension of the Sahelian savanna. The area offered pastoralists and animals new habitable lands. According to Haynes, during that time, the area received a minimum of eleven inches of rainfall annually and possibly as much as twenty-four. Between 7000 and 4000 BC, when the leading edge of monsoon rains covered a significant portion of Africa's interior, a "pluvial maximum"--when rainfall was at its peak--developed, turning the desert green with life. (70)

Evidence from the Gilf Kebir region reflects a semiarid to arid climate that was dominated by hare, gazelle, and rodents. Remains discovered at Dahkla include hartebeest, gazelle, horse, hippopotamus, bovids, elephant, ostrich, and fish. Rhinoceros bones have been found at Merga, and elephant, antelope, wild cats, and giraffe at Abu Ballas. Since giraffes eat the leaves, buds, and twigs of acacia trees and other plants, it can be assumed that across the region sufficient trees were available to support their diet. (70)

Playas in the northern Egyptian oases were active until 5000 BC. In the Siwa Oasis, the Hatiet Urn El-Hiyus Playa was active through 5900 BC but began to dry out from its high point during the sixth millennium BC. The evidence from these playas indicates that between 8000 and 5000 BC the climate conditions alternated between arid, and wet. Although wet periods lasted for several hundred years, making the region habitable, the overall climate was mostly dry. (70)

What can be surmised is that evidence from the Sudanese and Egyptian lake beds indicate that the beginning of the Sahara's pluvial conditions began about 7880 and ended around 5490 BC. The first wet phase began about 7800 BC, with a second wet phase occurring around 6900 BC. There is also evidence that a third phase existed between 5490 and 5220 BC. Between these wet phases the climate returned to being relatively dry. (70)

Fossil evidence from the Selima Sand Sheet, which was initially formed during the ice age, also suggests that a wet period occurred between 8000 and 5000 BC. (70)

Egypt's Arba'in Desert and surrounding region has been arid, receiving less than half an inch of rain per year for the last fifteen thousand to twenty thousand years. However wetter conditions prevailed between 7000 and 4000 B.C.E., with rainwater averaging more than twelve inches per year and possibly as much as twenty-four. (70)

Rock art dating to 5000 BC corroborates what the radar equipment revealed. In Libya, Egypt, and Mali, petroglyphs depict not only grazing animals, but also aquatic life such as crocodiles. This indicates that the desert was inhabited during a time prior to 4000 BC and as far back as 8000 BC, when the climate was wet. (70)

…the most important settlements were probably always situated on the floodplain of the Nile; if the floodplain was indeed lower between 8000 and 5000 BC, as has recently been suggested, sites of that period would now lie buried under more recent deposits of alluvium. It has never seemed logical that the Nile valley would be almost uninhabited during a period when lands to the east and west of Egypt were experiencing great advances in population and cultural development. (115)

The climatic record is, however, unequivocal: for most of the time between around 14 kya and 5 kya the Sahara experienced a monsoonal climate. The region had considerably greater rainfall than now and much of the land had permanent vegetation. (145)

Following the turbulent period of global upheavals and climatic changes that signalled the end of the last Ice Age, everything seems to have gone quiet in Egypt. All that is known from palaeo­climatological research is that between 8000 and 5000 BC the country suffered heavily from intensely long periods of rain - a time known to scholars as the neolithic subpluvial (a pluvial being a period of constant rain). Little is known about the peoples who inhabited Egypt during this age. (149)

Indus Valley

An epoch of spectacular geological turmoil occurred at the end of the last Ice Age, with the most dramatic effects registered in a series of cataclysmic floods that took place at intervals between roughly 15,000 and 7000 years ago. Is it an accident that this same 8000-year period has been pinpointed by archaeologists as the very one in which our supposedly primitive forefathers made the transition (in different places at somewhat different times) from their age-old hunter-gatherer lifestyle to settled agriculture? Or could there be more to 'the food-producing revolution' than meets the eye? After all, most scientists already recognize a causative connection between the end of the Ice Age and the supposed beginning of farming - indeed an unproven hypothesis that rapid climate changes forced hunter-gatherers to invent agriculture presently serves as pretty much the sum of conventional wisdom on this subject. But there is another possibility. Nobody seems to have noticed that in the general vicinity of each of the places in the world where the food-producing revolution is supposed to have begun between 15,000 and 7000 years ago there is also a large area of land that was submerged by the post-glacial floods between 15,000 and 7000 years ago: We have seen that this is true for India, one of the world's ancient agricultural 'hearths', which lost more than a million square kilometres in the south and the west and, most conspicuously in the north-west, at the end of the Ice Age. (124)

China

  …for some thousands of years after the end of the Pleistocene at about 12,000 years ago, China's climate was somewhat warmer and moister than it is today, and much of the country was probably heavily forested, from the temperate forests of the north to the jungles in the south. (49)

Widespread evidence of lake levels in China and Mongolia shows that conditions were moister than present until 5 kya. (145)

Europe

 Like the paleogeographers at Franchthi Cave, Plato's Egyptian priest also saw the Greece of Solon's day as a "mere remnant" (Critias 111) of her former size--a remarkable coincidence in itself--but the priest blamed deluge, earthquake, and subsequent erosion: You are left, as with little islands, with something rather like the skeleton of a body wasted by disease; the rich, soft soil has all run away leaving the land nothing but skin and bone. But in those days the damage had not taken place; the hills had high crests, the rocky plain of Phelleus was covered with rich soil. ... (Critias 111) If this disaster were of truly the magnitude claimed by the priest, the survival even of Franchthi Cave, the only active site known to Greek archaeology during that 9000 to 6000 BC "gap,” would be somewhat miraculous. (115)

At peak moments of the meltdown any hypothetical civilizations living around the edges of partially enclosed seas that served as drainage areas for the great ice-sheets could have suffered disproportionately large and rapid change in sea-level. In a sophisticated and original argument, LaViolette draws particular attention to the Mediterranean: Glacial meltwater [from the nearby European ice-sheets] would have entered the Mediterranean much more rapidly than it could escape through the Straits of Gibraltar, and, as a result, the temporary rise in Mediterranean sea-level would have been much greater than in the surrounding oceans ... [Such meltwater surges] could have temporarily raised the Mediterranean by some 60 meters, flooding all coast civilizations. (124)

…there is no dispute from any authority that during the extremely cold and arid periods that occurred several times between 17,000 and 10,000 years ago: man and animals could migrate from the Italian peninsula, by land, to the warmer climates of the Siculo-Maltese district. Herds of red deer left northern latitudes and settled in all parts of present-day Sicily, the present-day Egadi islands of Favignana and Levanzo, and the Maltese archipelago, the latter site being the warmest of the Siculo-Maltese district during the Pleistocene. (124)

In 1931 a trawler working in the southern North Sea dredged up a lump of peat containing an exquisitely crafted spearhead made from a deer's antler. Dated as being nearly 14 kyr old, this artefact was dramatic evidence of how early humans exploited the broad expanses of land that had been exposed during the last ice age, and were only reclaimed by the sea some 7 kya. When this spearhead was buried, dense oak forests had yet to spread into the region, known to archaeologists as 'Doggerland', where now the sea is over 30m deep. This famous find emphasises that the rise in sea level between about 15 and 5 kya covered up large areas of habitable land that had been exploited by humans and made movement around the continental margins easier. (145)

Pollen diagrams, which show the spatial and temporal spread of trees across Europe, paint a picture of an invasion that lasted a few thousand years. In the vanguard were birch and pine which reached Denmark by 10.5 kya, and were closely followed by hazel and then elm. Then around 8.5 kya came lime, oak and alder. The pattern of advance varied as oak already covered the southern half of the continent by 10 kya and reached its northerly limit in Britain by 8 kya and in Scandinavia and Russia by 7 kya. Lime took a somewhat different route. Starting from a smaller area in the Balkans and Italy, it reached its northern limit by 7 kya. Overall, the transition to peak Holocene levels of tree cover in the eastern Mediterranean took about a thousand years following the end of the Younger Dryas. Farther north the forest cover was still rather more open than at present with more herbaceous glades, but by 8.5 kya the forest had become closed. (145)

South America

 

Mesoamerica

 

North America

 ...the drumlins and other 'hummocky' landforms strewn across Canada are evidence of continental floods of biblical proportions - floods of water in some cases hundreds of metres high - that roared out from beneath the ice-caps during the last deglaciation, destroying or mangling everything in their path. Shaw explicitly suggests that many elements of the universal myth of the deluge may be explained by such floods pouring down off the land - intimately linked, as they were, to the episodes of sudden and ferocious sea-level rise that took place between 15,000 and 8000 years ago. I think it is worth re-emphasizing Shaw's figures, and their implications. He is talking about turbulent, energetic floods 20 metres deep flowing in vortices at high speed and pressure, under the main ice-sheets, across fronts up to 160 kilometres wide. Only floods on such a scale and of such violence could have sculpted the drumlin-fields and hummocky terrain and tortured pitted scablands of Canada and the United States and carved out other remarkable features such as the extremely large through valleys - including those containing the Finger Lakes - that lie to the south of drumlin-fields in northern New York State. 'Volumes of water required to sustain such floods', observes Shaw, 'would have been of the order of one million cubic kilometres equivalent to a rise of several metres in sea-level over a matter of weeks. (124)

Between about 8000 and 6500 B.C., the annual temperature of much of the North American East was probably 2.5 degrees Celsius cooler than at present...(53)

In some prehistoric periods the Southwest was wetter than it is today, but for most of the last ten thousand years the Southwest has usually been at least as hot and dry as it is today, and there were short periods of extreme drought. (53)

During the Clovis era, which began 11,500 years ago and continued for a few hundred years thereafter, the living things of North America were undergoing what was one of the more traumatic times in the history of the earth. For people living here at the time, the world may well have seemed an unstable place. Familiar animals might suddenly disappear, seeking their favored food, which had also gone somewhere else. What might have been a good place for your parents might change into something that would not support you. People would have been on the move. One result was a great many more species going extinct, not unlike what had happened in all the previous interstadials. These ecological changes were driven, of course, by the relatively rapid climate change that brought on the relatively rapid disintegration of the glacial ice: by 7,000 years ago, the ice was about what it is today in extent and location. The particularly important results of the overall climate change under way were the reestablishment of four-season continental climates and the increase in seasonal extremes - colder winters, hotter summers - which unquestionably stressed the creatures that had adapted to somewhat more consistent year-round conditions. There's only so much cold a southern white pine can take, for example, and only so much summer heat a blue spruce can live through. In this chaotic late Pleistocene-early Holocene period, the limits of everyone and everything were being tested. Creatures needed to readjust to new ranges. Among mammals, size transformation proved a more salutary strategy than the conservative one of simply sweating it out: the 350-pound beaver gave way to a successor more like today's, for example, smaller in size and behaviorally more clever. Changing patterns of precipitation (and evaporation) would have created similar challenges. New habitats were being created in virtually every part of North America, a shifting kaleidoscope of ecosystems that meant tremendous change for any creatures present, including humans.(130)

Other

 Some 260 million years ago, during the Permian period, deciduous trees adapted to a warm climate grew in Antarctica. ...Here at the southernmost known mountain in the world, - scarcely two hundred miles from the South Pole, was found conclusive evidence that the climate of Antarctica was once temperate or even sub-tropical. ...sedimentary cores collected from the bottom of the Ross Sea by one of the Byrd Antarctic Expeditions provide conclusive evidence that 'great rivers, carrying down fine well grained sediments' did flow in this part of Antarctica until perhaps as late as 4000 BC. From 6000 to 15,000 years ago the sediment is fine-grained with the exception of one granule at about 12,000 years ago. This suggests an absence of ice from the area during that period, except perhaps for a stray iceberg 12,000 years ago. ...at one time the temperatures of the Arctic Ocean were similar to the contemporary temperatures of the Bay of Bengal or the Caribbean Sea. (152)

Astronomical considerations...suggest that the underwater monument of Yonaguni is likely to have been constructed - and thus to have stood on dry land - somewhere between 9900 and 9000 years before the present - precisely the same epoch was identified by geologists as the last time that the monument would have stood above sea-level. (161)