Dry Land – Day 3 and Prehistory – Environment

Okay, You made the light and the water.  Where did the land come from?

“And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place,and let the dry land appear.  And it was so. 

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas.  And God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth.  And it was so. 

And the earth brought forth grass and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind.  And God saw that it was good. 

And the evening and the morning were the thirdday (Gen 1:9-13).

He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end (Job 26:10).

Prehistory – Environment 8000 B.C. – 1 A.D.

About 8000 B.C.: The last Ice age ended when the ice sheets finally retreated from Scandinavia and the glaciers in Scotland disappeared.

The Gobekli Tepe civilisation of Turkey that started some 8,000 years before the nativity and more than 4,000 years before the Sumerian civilization. But, they have left us the first cathedral on a hill.

People, animals and plants invaded the appearing land after the ice had disappeared. Part of the North Sea is still dry.

Ice Age Child Found in Prehistoric Alaskan Home
By Brian Handwerk, for National Geographic News
In what’s now central Alaska, one of the first Americans, only three years old at the time, was laid to rest in a pit inside his or her house 11,500 years ago.
One thing that apparently isn’t a mystery is how the child was memorialized.
“You can see that the child was laid in the pit—a fire hearth inside the house—and the fire was started on top of the child,” study co-author Joel Irish said. Charred wood from the pit allowed scientists to assign a radiocarbon date to the site.
After the cremation, the child’s hunter-gatherer clan apparently filled the 18-inch-deep (45-centimeter-deep) hearth with soil and abandoned the dwelling. No other artifacts exist above the fill line.
Even the new find represents only 20 percent of the child’s skeleton, offering few clues as to how the child died. But what’s left makes it clear that the youngster died before burial and was placed in a position of peaceful repose.

8000 – 7000 B.C.: Age of the Hunter

Gatherers. The European environment was transformed: the boreal forests (coniferous forests) were pushed back to Scandinavia, tundra and steppe were all but removed from the scene and the dominant vegetation type was now mixed deciduous forest covering over 80% of the land bordering the North Sea.

Humans followed vegetation and recolonize northern Europe.

7500 B.C.: The melting of the ice sheets resulted in the flooding of the North Sea basin and the disappearance of the land bridge connecting Britain to the continent by 8000 years ago.

This prevented many tree and plans species to invade Britain and explains, for example, why it has only two species of conifer: Scots Pine and juniper (the status of yew is contested).

6000 – 2500 B.C.:Sea level reached a slightly higher level than today coinciding with the warmest period of the past 10,000 years with temperatures about 2 degrees celsius higher than today.

8000-5000 B.C.:Impact Mesolithic peoples

A new study by an international team of researchers says that fires started by prehistoric humans – either deliberately or by mistake – might be the reason Europe is not more densely forested today.
The research, published November 30, 2016 in PLOS ONE, suggests that, more than 20,000 years before the industrial revolution, humans were capable of making a large-scale impact on Earth’s landscape and vegetation.
During the coldest phase of the last Ice Age, which peaked about 21,000 years ago and ended about 11,500 years ago, hunter-gatherers might have deliberately lit forest fires in an attempt to create grasslands and park-like forests.

Mesolithic 1 Europeans altered the landscape through fire more thoroughly than their predecessors. By doing so they created a more predictable environment for themselves.

Burning grasses helped rejuvenate their environments over a period of five to six years, attracting game, especially if open areas were maintained near water sources.

It probably through the use of fire and other land  management techniques that created large open areas which is probably most important environmental legacy of the Mesolithic peoples.

The Europeans learned to manipulate their environments and created a mosaic of woodlands and open land that they so favoured for food gathering and hunting.

Manipulation could be extreme: it was Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who first deforested the western Isles of Scotland. By 3000 years ago there was no tree left on these isles.

5000-4000 B.C.: Arrival of agriculture

Farming, including crops like emmer and einkorn and domesticated animals, reached northwestern Europe via southeastern and central Europe by ca. 4,800 BC during the Neolithic 2 period.

It is likely that local peoples were not replaced by immigrant populations but observed and adapted to the new way of life: agriculture. Immigrants would have set examples and pushed hunter-gatherers into agriculture.

Last Ice Age Warning! –Melting “Greenland Sized” Pleistocene Ice Sheet Raised Raised Sea Level 20 Feet
Posted on Nov 12, 2017
New research shows that climate warming reduced the mass of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet by half in as little as 500 years, indicating the Greenland Ice Sheet could have a similar fate.
The Cordilleran Ice Sheet covered large parts of North America during the Pleistocene – or Last Ice Age – and was similar in mass to the Greenland Ice Sheet.
Previous research estimated that it covered much of western Canada as late as 12,500 years ago, but new data shows that large areas in the region were ice-free as early as 1,500 years earlier.
This confirms that once ice sheets start to melt, they can do so very quickly.

That must not have been hard since many hunter-gatherers had managed wild life and plant resources in a way that can be described as proto-agriculture.

It is also likely that agriculture sprang up independently in some locations and was later supplemented by the grains and animals arriving from the Middle East.

The spread of agriculture through Europe during the Neolithic period. Source: Wikipedia.

The new economic and ecological regime was based on barley, oats, sheep, goats and domesticated cattle, all of which had wild ancestors in Anatolia and the Near East.

This indicates that Northwest Europe was integrated into a wider cultural-economic-environmental network (a process that we call nowadays “globalisation”).

Between the Neolithic and the 18th century, agriculture was the main cause of culturally driven environmental change.

 2100 BC – 1 A.D.: Bronze and Iron Age
By about 1 AD the countryside in many parts of western Europe was already owned, managed and planned. This had been the case for most of the Bronze and Iron Age. Little wildwood remains and the land resource was well planned with field systems in rotation, pasture and coppiced woodland. Hill forts became common and acted as local centres of administration, power and refuge.

Crops: The range of crops grown had widened considerably since the early bronze age. Although the most important were wheat and barley, oats, tic beans, vetch, peas, rye, flax and fat hen were regularly grown. Storage of crops was either in pits or in raised stores and harvest was over several months – weeds, grain and then straw.

Livestock: Sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, poultry, geese and ducks. Horses were a new arrival in the farmsteads but they were not used for work so much as symbols of status.

The Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.

Farming systems: Farming typically revolved around small hamlets and farmsteads with enclosed rectilinear fields – each having areas of pasture, arable and wood.

Ploughing became more efficient with the arrival of the iron share (plough point) and a two field rotation was introduced; crops one year followed by a fallow that was grazed by livestock.

This lead to surprisingly high yields and fueled population growth, even though retreat from the uplands had been necessary because of climate deterioration.

Woodland and hedges: In southern parts of the country, most of the wildwood had been cleared and given way to farming or coppice management. In northern parts, or where the ground was particularly unsuitable for agriculture, wildwood remained, but under constant threat. Land around the farmsteads was usually enclosed by hazel fencing or hedging.

Climate: The climate of the iron age was much cooler and wetter by comparison with that of the bronze age – but was probably similar to that of today.

Roman Invasion: The Romans invaded large parts of Western Europe from the middle of the 1st century BC. This started a process of Romanisation of population and landscape.