And Now For Some Zen…

Michael Mann and his colleagues published a paper back in 2008 with the title “Proxy-based reconstructions of hemispheric and global surface temperature variations over the past two millennia”, which demonstrated reliably that very recent global temperatures are higher than for thousands of years, and that the rate of warming is unprecedented in a similar timeframe :-

This paper confirmed the previous “Hockey Stick” analysis.

Towards the end of the paper, comes this :-

“…Conclusions are less definitive for the SH [Southern Hemisphere] and [hence the] globe, which we attribute to larger uncertainties arising from the sparser available proxy data in the SH. Given the uncertainties, the SH and global reconstructions are compatible with the possibility of warmth similar to the most recent decade during brief intervals of the past 1,500 years. A targeted effort to recover additional high-quality, long paleoclimate proxy records from the SH could reduce these current existing uncertainties…”

The need for temperature proxy information in the Southern Hemisphere…That set me thinking…

Recently, results from Archaeology have suggested that human beings have not only been smarter for longer, but they are likely to have had cultural expression for over 150,000 years :-

From the August 2010 Scientific American Magazine : “When the Sea Saved Humanity” : Shortly after Homo sapiens arose harsh climate conditions nearly extinguished our species. Recent finds suggest that the small population that gave rise to all humans alive today survived by exploiting a unique combination of resources along the southern coast of Africa : By Curtis W. Marean…At some point between 195,000 and 123,000 years ago, the population size of Homo sapiens plummeted, thanks to cold, dry climate conditions that left much of our ancestors’ African homeland uninhabitable….The southern coast of Africa would have been one of the few spots where humans could survive during this climate crisis, because it harbors an abundance of shellfish and edible plants…Excavations of a series of sites in this region have recovered items left behind by what may have been that progenitor population…”

The research indicates that the humans from the caves investigated would probably have tracked the shoreline of the receding ocean as conditions became colder and sea levels dropped; and then retreated to the caves again when it got warmer and the sea levels rose again. Finds from the caves include red ochre, heat treated rock slivers and shells, presumably used for some cultural requirement.

“Superglue: Stone Age Humans Beat Us to It : Superglue may be a modern convenience, but it might not be such a recent invention. Using Stone Age materials, South Africa-based researchers have recreated a glue that they suspect people at that time made to hold their tools together. Red ochre dye once thought by archaeologists to only serve a decorative or symbolic purpose in present-day South Africa 70,000 years ago, may have actually been the magic ingredient in a Stone Age recipe for natural superglue…”

“Ancient Beads : Archaeologists at the Natural History Museum discovered shell beads in Morocco that date back more than 82,000 years. This accompanies another dig which uncovered two beads in Israel, dated to be 100,000 years old, according to the museum’s website. The shells had holes in the centers of them and had been colored using dyes made from red ochre. Similar finds in South Africa have convinced some historians that ancient people travelled and shared ideas. It also suggests that ancient Human Sapiens developed an artistic culture among their settlements…”

Ancient trogolodyte humans, who also happened to have had oceangoing craft, have been detected in other places :-

“An unusual human foot find from the Philippines : June 14th, 2010 : noelbynature : The news of an unusual hominid foot bone was first announced at the IPPA Congress last year, raising the possibility of a hobbit-like hominids inhabiting the Philippines 67,000 years ago. Now, a paper has been published in the Journal of Human Evolution about the intriguing foot bone, identified as human, but also fitting within the size range of the Homo floresiensis and Homo habilis as well. The location of the find suggests that human seafaring was already existing 60,000-70,000 years ago. : New evidence for a 67,000-year-old human presence at Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines : Journal of Human Evolution, doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.04.008”

“Mystery seafaring ancestor found in the Philippines : New Scientist, 03 June 2010 : New evidence for a 67,000-year-old human presence at Callao Cave, Luzon, Philippines”

Maybe there is something that these early wandering humans left behind, besides indications that they moved around ? Maybe there is. And maybe it can be connected to climate changes.

“The writing on the cave wall : Kate Ravilious : New Scientist : Wed, 17 Feb 2010…While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago. What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites. Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful – perhaps even the seeds of written communication…No signs ever emerged in northern France, though. “For large periods of time the north was uninhabitable because of ice sheets coming and going, so there was less opportunity for culture to develop independently up there,” says von Petzinger. The Ice Age may have hindered the cultural revolution in the north, but elsewhere it could have been instrumental in furthering it. “People were forced to move south and congregate in ‘refugia’ during the last glacial maximum, 18,000 to 21,000 years ago, and it is at this time when we start to see an explosion in rock art,” says Nowell. “One possibility is that they were using the signs to demarcate their territories.” Yet while long winters spent in caves might have induced people to spend time painting wonder walls, there are reasons to think the symbols originated much earlier on. One of the most intriguing facts to emerge from von Petzinger’s work is that more than three-quarters of the symbols were present in the very earliest sites, from over 30,000 years ago. “I was really surprised to discover this,” says von Petzinger. If the creative explosion occurred 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, she would have expected to see evidence of symbols being invented and discarded at this early stage, with a long period of time passing before a recognisable system emerged. Instead, it appears that by 30,000 years ago a set of symbols was already well established. The idea would seem to fit with a few tantalising finds that have emerged from Africa and the Middle East over recent years. At Blombos cave on South Africa’s southern Cape, for example, archaeologists have recently discovered pieces of haematite (an iron oxide used to make red pigment) engraved with abstract designs that are at least 75,000 years old (Science, vol 323, p 569). Meanwhile, at the Skhul rock shelter in Israel, there are shell beads considered by some to be personal ornaments and evidence for symbolic behaviour as far back as 100,000 years ago (Science, vol 312, p 1785). Further evidence may well come from caves elsewhere in the world, and indeed a tentative look at the existing records suggests that many of von Petzinger’s symbols crop up in other places. The open angle symbol, for example, can be seen on the engravings at Blombos cave. Does this suggest that these symbols travelled with prehistoric tribes as they migrated from Africa? Von Petzinger and Nowell think so…”Language and abstract thought were probably practised long before 35,000 years ago, since ‘modern humans’ are some 200,000 years old. We shouldn’t be surprised by the sophistication of these people’s thinking: they were our great-great-grandparents after all,” he says…”

People have been living pretty primitive lives in caves all over the world, right up to the present day. And originally they all had the same roots, and drew the same patterns on the walls.

Is there something about this really ancient tradition of cave dwelling that has persisted in human culture that could give us an indication of temperature until around 500 years ago when primitive peoples started to adapt ? Could cave habitation patterns on a recent historical timeline indicate changes in the climate ?

Could cave hand prints, red makeup and shell beads all over the world could be a vital temperature proxy ?


…Almost as intriguing as looking at stalagmites in ancient caves for signs of temperature changes :-

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