HISTORY OF LIFE
The Pleistocene Ice Age
Climate and Geography During the Ice Ages
Ice Sheet Maximum and Ice Sheet Melting
There were bizarre consequences of ice-sheet melting, more than one of which may have altered human history: here is one recently discovered example:
The Black Sea Flood
Ice Age VertebratesA picture gallery from UCLA.
The Overkill Hypothesis (and others)
The La Brea Tarpits
Mastodons in the East
Human Arrival in the AmericasNew thinking in this area suggests that fisherfolk spread along the west coast of the Americas before Clovis people occupied the inner continent. The fisherfolk had little or no effect on the continental ecosystem (though I suspect that future research will show that they affected coastal ecology dramatically).
Evidence from linguistics:
The Monte Verde site, in Chile
New evidence of pre-Clovis people at Cactus Hill, Virginia:
Kennewick Man. On a separate page.
Australians as the first Americans?!?Luzia, from Brazil, an early American who looks uncannily like someone from Australasia or Polynesia. Story from the New York Times, October 26, 1999. This is not a new claim (that was earlier in 1999), but this is the most comprehensive summary so far. There is no scientific paper yet. Luzia is named half-humorously after Lucy, the australopithecine who has been so important in redefining our concepts of the earliest hominids.
Europeans as the first Americans?Here is a news story from November 1999. Dennis Stanford of the Smithsonian and a colleague are suggesting that the first humans reached North America across the Atlantic from Western Europe. This doesn't fit with genetic information; the timing is wrong; and I have to say that Dr. Stanford has previously suggested rather off-the-wall theories. At the very least, this one is controversial, and will need a great deal more evidence before it becomes plausible.
Native Americans as ecological stewards of the land?You have probably got the message from my chapter that this is a self-serving though politically astute myth. See this 1999 book review in the New York Times of The Ecological Indian, by Shepard Krech, and the first chapter of the book, which describes the North American extinctions. Here also is a short essay by Professor Krech in New Scientist, October 1999.
Meanwhile, Native Americans skewed the biology of seals and sealions along the California coast. News item from Davis, California, 1997.
Large North American Animals
Megaherbivores and Medium-Sized Animals
Daniel Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania has suggested that these fruits coevolved with large elephants (gomphotheres), which became extinct with the other large American mammals. I'll let Wayne have a word on the fruits and seeds involved. Meanwhile, Carlos Yamashita has suggested that macaws were involved too.
So who killed off the buffalo?. It's not as simple as you thought.
Northern EurasiaTalk in 1997 by A. J. Stuart on European extinctions.
Pleistocene Mammals in Russia, at the Russian Paleontological Institution
The most important local extinctions in the Old World took place in habitats that modern humans were invading in strength for the first time. The large mammals were hunted out of the optimum part of their range, and then the last survivors hung on in the inhospitable (usually northern) parts of their range until newly invading humans or climatic fluctuations killed them off. For example, woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceroses, and giant deer , along with horses, elk, and reindeer, reinvaded Britain from Europe after the ice sheets began to retreat and birch woodland and parkland spread northward. Mammoths flourished in Britain until 12,800 BP at least, but then human artifacts appeared at 12,000 BP, and the largest animals of the tundra fauna quickly disappeared. The giant deer called the Irish elk survived on the island of Ireland after the main extinctions on the European mainland.
Can we clone a mammoth?An expedition has been financed by the Discovery Channel to recover a frozen mammoth from Siberia.
Bring back the elephantsto North America A suggestion by Paul Martin and David Burney. From Whole Earth magazine, 2000.
New Thoughts on Mammoth-Hunter SocietyAnd now for something completely different: a fascinating new take on "mammoth hunters" from a female point of view. This is a must read! Anyone interested in gender studies will love it. What's more, it sounds right!
And what about those "Venus figurines"? Were they sex objects made for the titillation of Gravettian males? A newer and well-argued suggestion is that they were charms used by pregnant women as magic to ward off difficult childbirth.
And if you liked these last few items, you will LOVE this one! From the New York Times, December 14, 1999.
Ice Age fashions, and the origin of weaving.
Soffer argues that evidence of woven textiles revises our view of Cromagnons and their contemporaries in Eastern Europe. And she's probably right: for example, is this the long-sought secret weapon of CroMagnons in competition with Neanderthals?
My wife says that weaving doesn't mean looms, as the newest story suggests, but that's a minor point. Kids begin weaving without looms, and graduate to them.
The World Today
The New World syndrome of diseasesDiabetes among the Pima Indians.
The view from the Pima:
The PolynesiansJared Diamond's vivid account of the end of the advanced Polynesian civilization on Easter Island. Required reading!! It is also archived here