Daily Bulletin


News

  • Written by Chris Clarkson, Professor in Archaeology, The University of Queensland

About 74,000 years ago a volcanic eruption at what is now Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia, created one of the most dramatic natural disasters of the past 2 million years. The plume of the eruption punched 30 kilometres or more into the sky, eventually blanketing much of India and parts of Africa in a layer of ash.

Some scientists argue the eruption plunged Earth into a six-year “volcanic winter” followed by a thousand-year cooling of the planet’s surface. The long chill, the argument goes, may have resulted in the near extinction of our own species.

One prominent theory says the eruption was a key event in human evolution. If this is right, the few human survivors in Africa would have developed more sophisticated social, symbolic and economic strategies to cope with the harsh conditions. These new strategies might then have enabled them to repopulate Africa and migrate into Europe, Asia and Australia by 60-50,000 years ago.

Read more: Armageddon and its aftermath: dating the Toba super-eruption

It is still unclear how intense the fallout from the Toba eruption really was, and how it affected humans. The debate has been running for decades, drawing on evidence from climate science, geology, archaeology and genetics.

We have found new evidence that humans in India survived the Toba eruption and continued to flourish after it. The study – by researchers from the University of Queensland, the University of Wollongong, the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the University of Allahabad and others – is published in Nature Communications today.

Stone tools show humans in India survived the cataclysmic Toba eruption 74,000 years ago Some of the stone tools found at Dhaba. Chris Clarkson

Living through the eruption

We studied a unique archaeological record that covers 80,000 years at the Dhaba site in the middle Son valley of northern India. Ash from the Toba eruption was found in the Son valley back in the 1980s, but until now there was no archaeological evidence to go with it.

The Dhaba site fills a major time gap in our understanding of how ancient humans survived and migrated out of Africa and across the world. The stone tools we found at Dhaba are similar to the ones people were using in Africa at the same time.

These toolkits were present at Dhaba before and after the Toba super-eruption, indicating that populations survived the event. It is likely that humans made the same kinds of tools all along the dispersal route from Africa through India, reaching Australia by at least 65,000 years ago.

Read more: Buried tools and pigments tell a new history of humans in Australia for 65,000 years

Dhaba therefore provides a crucial cultural link between Africa, Asia and Australia. Although fossil and genetic evidence indicate modern humans have lived outside Africa for the past 200,000 years (at sites such as Apedima, Misliya, Qafzeh, Skhul, Al Wusta and Fuyan cave) only human fossil evidence can prove beyond doubt they were in India 80,000 years ago.

Nevertheless, the stone tools at Dhaba go a long way toward demonstrating human presence.

Stone tools show humans in India survived the cataclysmic Toba eruption 74,000 years ago Possible routes of ancient human migration. Chris Clarkson, Author provided

Putting together the puzzle

Our findings at Dhaba fit with archaeological evidence from Africa, Asia, and elsewhere in India to support the idea that the Toba super-eruption had minimal effects on humans and did not cause a population bottleneck. Archaeological sites in southern Africa show human populations thrived following the Toba super-eruption.

Climate and vegetation records from Lake Malawi in East Africa likewise show no evidence for a volcanic winter at the time of the eruption. Genetic studies similarly have not detected a clear population bottleneck around 74,000 years ago.

At Jwalapuram, in southern India, Michael Petraglia and colleagues found similar Middle Palaeolithic stone tools above and below a thick layer of Toba ash. At the Lida Ajer site in Sumatra, close to the eruption itself, Kira Westaway and colleagues found human teeth dated to 73,000-63,000 years ago. This indicates humans were living in Sumatra, in a closed-canopy rainforest environment not long after the eruption.

Our new findings contribute to a revised understanding of the global impact of the Toba super-eruption. While the Toba super-eruption was certainly a colossal event, global cooling may have been less significant than previously thought.

In any case, archaeological evidence suggests that humans survived and coped with one of the largest volcanic events in human history. Small bands of hunter-gatherers turned out to be highly adaptable in the face of climate change.

Read more: Under the volcano: predicting eruptions and coping with ash rain

Authors: Chris Clarkson, Professor in Archaeology, The University of Queensland

Read more https://theconversation.com/stone-tools-show-humans-in-india-survived-the-cataclysmic-toba-eruption-74-000-years-ago-132101

Writers Wanted

Should pregnant women have a COVID vaccine? The evidence says it's safe and effective

arrow_forward

Is the truth out there? How the Harvard-based Galileo Project will search the skies for alien technology

arrow_forward

Trampoline training: 6 tips for safe trampolining

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison's interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning to you.   PRIME MINISTER: G’day, Ray.   HADLEY: Gee, you’ve had a week.   PRIME MINISTER: Well, there's been a lot of weeks like this. This time last...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Ray Hadley's interview with Scott Morrison

RAY HADLEY: I'm going to go straight to the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison is on the line right now. Prime Minister, good morning to you.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Ray.   HADLEY: Just d...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Defence and Veterans suicide Royal Commission

Today the Government has formally established a Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide following approval by the Governor-General.   Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Royal Commi...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Why it takes time to buy a business

Covid has sent shockwaves through the business for sale marketplace. At Bsale we are finding there are now more buyers in the market than sellers which creates a unique opportunity. With enforc...

Vanessa Lovie - Bsale CEO - avatar Vanessa Lovie - Bsale CEO

4 Ways To Make Your Business Look Nicer

If you own a business of any kind, you already know the importance of your building looking nice both inside and out. The more presentable it looks, the more professional it looks. A professional lo...

NewsServices.com - avatar NewsServices.com

9 Smart Hacks for Your First Day at Work

No matter how much work experience you have, the first day with a new company can be very stressful. Even the biggest professionals find the change of location and work collective a little frighte...

Chloe Taylor - avatar Chloe Taylor