Did Climate Change Drive Prehistoric Culture Change?





Earth is warming, climate researchers say, and sooner or later we will have to adjust our lifestyles if we want to adapt and survive. Perhaps we should take a cue from earlier occupants of North America. A new study finds a strong correlation between changing climate and changing culture in the prehistoric United States.

Archaeologists divide the prehistory of North America into three broad cultural phases: the Paleoindian, Archaic, and Woodland periods. They are characterized by an increasing trend toward sedentary lifestyles and shifts in the kinds of plants and animals people lived on, as well as changes in the kinds of tools and other artifacts they used. For example, during the Paleoindian period, which began roughly 13,500 years ago, humans lived in small nomadic bands and hunted big game such as caribou; the Archaic period, which began in the Northeast about 11,250 years ago, was marked by a shift to smaller game, the rise of fishing, and semipermanent base camps; and the Woodland period, starting about 3000 years ago, saw the beginning of agriculture and full-fledged village life as well as the advent of pottery....


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