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Aboriginal rock art at Nourlangie, Australia. Image credit: Thomas Schoch /CC BY-SA 2.5. reports on 25 September that –
A new study, reported in the Journal of Archaeological Science, explores behavior of Aboriginal Australians during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM for short).
“The period scientists call the Last Glacial Maximum is the most significant climatic event ever faced by humans on this continent. The magnitude of change was phenomenal. Lakes dried up, forests disappeared, deserts expanded, animals went extinct and vast swathes of the Australian land mass would have been simply uninhabitable,” said Prof Sean Ulm from James Cook University in Cairns, who is a second author of the study.
Annual temperatures plummeted by as much as 10 degrees below present-day levels, with massive reductions in rainfall. Glaciers appeared in the Snowy Mountains and Tasmania. “This was a time of massive change. Sea levels fell more than 120 metres during the LGM, exposing much of the continental shelf and connecting mainland Australia to Papua New Guinea and Tasmania.”
Prof Ulm and his Australian colleagues teamed up with scientists from the United Kingdom and Canada to use advanced geospatial techniques to analyze archaeological radiocarbon dates from across Australia.
“The archaeological evidence reflects major changes in settlement and subsistence patterns at this time. Many previously occupied areas were abandoned. There were changes to hunting practices, the types of food people were eating, and the technologies they were using, to deal with new circumstances. We expect there would have been huge impacts on social relationships and religious beliefs as well, but these types of changes are much harder to detect in the archaeological record. One thing we can say for sure is that extreme climate change results in the fundamental social and economic reorganisation of society. This was certainly true in the past and will be true in the future.”
Full feature here.


October 2013
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