Skip to comments.Ice Age Australians Sheltered In Caves
Posted on 09/24/2007 10:07:17 AM PDT by blam
Ice age Australians sheltered in caves
ABC Science Online
Monday, 24 September 2007
Why would Aboriginal Tasmanians flock to one of the coldest parts of the island during an ice age? One researcher says it was to shelter from the wind in caves and steep valleys (Image: Ian Gilligan)
Ice age Aboriginal Australians protected themselves from bitterly cold winds by flocking to caves in one of the most inhospitable parts of the continent, says an archaeologist.
Ian Gilligan, a postgraduate researcher from the Australian National University, lays out his argument in the current issue of the journal Antiquity.
Gilligan says parts of the island state of Tasmania are buffeted by high-speed winds, including the southwest quarter.
"It's more exposed to the prevailing southwesterly, the coldest wind," says Gilligan. "It's higher up, it's colder, it's further south."
But Aboriginal people seem to have gone there during the last ice age to escape the worst of the cold.
"The only real evidence we have for Tasmanian Aboriginal people during the ice age is in that very coldest, windiest southwest corner and that's a paradox," he says.
Researchers have found ice age stone tools age in rock shelters and caves in the southwest, Gilligan says, but not in other parts of the island.
Until now, he says researchers have not explained why people once flocked to the exposed southwest because scientists have underplayed the importance of protection from the cold in determining where people live.
"In terms of human tolerance of cold, it's not the air temperature it's wind chill that's important," he says. "Half of that is air temperature, the other half is wind."
He argues the caves and steep valleys of the southwest provided important shelter from chilling winds.
"Whilst the temperature may be somewhat colder in that area, what the southwest offered to humans during the glacial maximum was protection from wind," he says.
A seasonal pattern?
Gilligan says it's early days for his theory that the cold drove humans to the southwest during the ice age, but the idea is also supported by evidence on hunting patterns.
He says Dr Richard Cosgrove of La Trobe University has found ice age remains of hunted wallaby in the area were more abundant in winter.
In other words, the colder the season, the more likely Aboriginal people were to live in the southwest.
While there is no actual evidence of ice age Aboriginal people living on the coast in the milder months during the ice age, they would have had abundant food in the form of fur seals and mutton birds, says Gilligan.
He says any evidence for ice age habitation of the coast is likely to have been destroyed by rising sea levels.
Gilligan says ice age Tasmanians living in the southwest would have sewn cloaks of wallaby skins to protect themselves from the cold when hunting in the open.
This is supported by the discovery of bone needles and tools that could be used to clean hides, he says.
Living in a cave
Gilligan also says there is evidence that Neanderthals and modern humans in places like Europe also used caves to escape the cold.
But he says, apart from seeking protection from cold, humans don't generally like living in caves.
"They're frightened of their dark recesses and prefer to live in the open," he says.
All those campfires caused the ice age to end, huh?
GGG Ping. (ahem)
Earth cycles, who knew?
“Gimme another cold one, mate!”
The original Gilligan’s Island
I really doubt that the Ice Age travel bureaus were pushing trips to the highland caves. It is far more likely that the people of the plains simply died off, and the only survivors were those accustomed to the cold weather. So the statement “flocking to caves in one of the most inhospitable parts of the continent” is either naive, or misleading.
Article makes a couple assumptions.
Different time, different climate. Might not have been anywheres near as windy then.
Any coastal settlements would have been inundated by rising sea levels as the the ice age ended. It is likely that the continental shelves contain a wealth of such material, but it is all under water now.
Throw another wooly mammoth on the barbie mate!
Hunting what in the extreme cold?
The postgrad has issues.
No mammoths or any large placental mammals in Australia, but I guess you know that.
Where’s that “Captain Obvious” graphic??
The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes:
Flood, Fire, and Famine
in the History of Civilization
by Richard Firestone, Allen West, and Simon Warwick-Smith
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The Tasmanians had lost the ability to make and use fire.
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