While we grapple with the impact of climate change, archaeologists suggest we spare a thought for Aboriginal Australians who had to cope with the last ice age.
"The period scientists call the Last Glacial Maximum, or LGM for short, is the most significant climatic event ever faced by humans on this continent," Associate Professor Sean Ulm from James Cook University in Cairns said.
Research recently published in the Journal of Archaeological Science sheds new light on the ways Aboriginal civilisation met the challenges of extreme climate change during the Last Glacial Maximum, which peaked around 20,000 years ago.
"The magnitude of change was phenomenal," said Professor Ulm, a lead researcher on the project and Deputy Director of JCU's Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science.
"Lakes dried up, forests disappeared, deserts expanded, animals went extinct and vast swathes of the Australian land mass would have been simply uninhabitable."
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," Professor Ulm said. "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."
Australian researchers from James Cook University, the Australian National University and the University of New South Wales teamed up with colleagues from Oxford University in the United Kingdom and Simon Fraser University in Canada to use advanced geospatial techniques to analyse archaeological radiocarbon dates from across Australia.
"We are trying to understand how people responded to these extreme conditions," Professor Ulm said.
The researchers found that during times of high climatic stress, human populations contracted into loca
|Contact: Linden Woodward|
James Cook University