An antler headdress or mask from Star Carr

This mask or headdress was placed near a lake at the Star Carr community after a severe cold spell. Credit: Neil Gevaux


How early Britons weathered two climate calamities

A brutal cold was too much for some hunter-gatherers — but not the people of Star Carr.

Some 11,000 years ago, a biting cold gripped northeastern England and lingered for decades. But local people — hunter-gatherers who built rudimentary houses — weathered the devastating conditions, archaeological evidence suggests.

To study the impact of abrupt climate change on early human societies, Simon Blockley at Royal Holloway, University of London in Egham, UK, and his colleagues examined archaeological and climate data at an early British settlement called Star Carr. The results show that two cold snaps, each a century long, hit Star Carr between 11,000 and 11,500 years ago.

The researchers determined that a few bits of woodworking debris dated to the first cold period. From the second cold spell, the site yielded animal bones that had been deliberately mixed with larger quantities of woodworking debris. Separate research suggests that other European hunter-gatherers possibly succumbed to abrupt climate change, but the Star Carr people were resilient enough to survive, the authors say.