Researchers reveal an explosion of increased tool sophistication in East Asia during a significant climatic transition. This is further support for the vital connection between sudden climatic pressure and punctuated human evolution.
“Early and Middle Pleistocene environmental change and its relation to hominin behavioural responses has been a subject of great interest in Africa and Europe, though little information is available for other key regions of the Old World, particularly from Eastern Asia.”
The excavation was done in high-latitude northern China, called Nihewan Basin, dating back to between∼1.4 and 1.0 million years ago. Researchers studied assemblages of stone tool – dissecting the complexity of refitting sequences from the ∼1.1-Ma-old site. They discovered an increase in tool-making skills
The mid-pleistocene is a period of time where glacial-interglacial timing began to suddenly transition from a 41000 year cycle to a 100 000 year cycle resulting in an intensified ice age and higher amplitude of climatic variability. It’s not hard to imagine how such a change would effect everyday life over time.
“Technological innovations are evident in the Nihewan Basin at the onset of the Mid-Pleistocene Climate Transition (MPT)”
The propulsion of inventive behaviour also continued past the initial onset.
“toolkits show increasing diversity at the outset of the MPT and in its aftermath.”
These findings help build historical context around the current climatic situation and suggest that environmental selection pressure from periodic stages of heightened meteorological turbulence such as what we currently find ourselves in, could lead to an evolutionary leap in technological development that aids society along in some unexpected way that may not have otherwise been possible.
The authors make a very good point about the exaggeration of this effect in colder regions, suggesting that areas higher in altitude or further away from the equator may be more prone to increased tool use perhaps as some form of compensation for lack of food (ecological diversity) and natural habitability.
“Adaptive flexibility of early hominins to ecosystem changes since the MPT, though regional abandonments are also apparent in high latitudes, likely owing to cold and oscillating environmental conditions”