Low / No Ice Arctic 5000 BC

So Oliver had a comment, that pointed to another comment of his (via ‘tinyurl’):


While that was interesting, I usually end up ‘wandering’… so in the comment just below his, another poster juxtaposed two links. One about evidence for a low ice regime in the Arctic about 5000 BC. The other about the earliest evidence for dairying about the same time… in the middle of a Green Sahara.

So IFF we actually did warm, what would be so bad about a green Sahara?…

plazaeme | September 17, 2012 at 6:58 am

An ice free (or almost ice free) Arctic seems to be hardly news.
Less Ice In Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 Years Ago

Did it have terrible impacts? Hmm, maybe:
First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium bc

That the Sahara had been wet and green back then, when things were warmer, was not news here. I’d covered that in an article a while ago:


That there were rock paintings there showing people, animals, herds, fish, all manner of good things; that, too, is not news.

But what is interesting in that article is that we have now dated things. It’s clear that they did do dairying and that it was at the same time.


First dairying in green Saharan Africa in the fifth millennium bc

Julie Dunne,
Richard P. Evershed,
Mélanie Salque,
Lucy Cramp,
Silvia Bruni,
Kathleen Ryan,
Stefano Biagetti
& Savino di Lernia

In the prehistoric green Sahara of Holocene North Africa—in contrast to the Neolithic of Europe and Eurasia—a reliance on cattle, sheep and goats emerged as a stable and widespread way of life, long before the first evidence for domesticated plants or settled village farming communities
1, 2, 3. The remarkable rock art found widely across the region depicts cattle herding among early Saharan pastoral groups, and includes rare scenes of milking; however, these images can rarely be reliably dated4. Although the faunal evidence provides further confirmation of the importance of cattle and other domesticates5, the scarcity of cattle bones makes it impossible to ascertain herd structures via kill-off patterns, thereby precluding interpretations of whether dairying was practiced. Because pottery production begins early in northern Africa6 the potential exists to investigate diet and subsistence practices using molecular and isotopic analyses of absorbed food residues7. This approach has been successful in determining the chronology of dairying beginning in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of the Near East and its spread across Europe8, 9, 10, 11. Here we report the first unequivocal chemical evidence, based on the δ13C and Δ13C values of the major alkanoic acids of milk fat, for the adoption of dairying practices by prehistoric Saharan African people in the fifth millennium bc. Interpretations are supported by a new database of modern ruminant animal fats collected from Africa. These findings confirm the importance of ‘lifetime products’, such as milk, in early Saharan pastoralism, and provide an evolutionary context for the emergence of lactase persistence in Africa.

The other bit is that there are clear wave artifacts in the arctic that can only happen with a lot of open water so waves can form. Conditions not found today.


Less Ice In Arctic Ocean 6000-7000 Years Ago

ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2008) — Recent mapping of a number of raised beach ridges on the north coast of Greenland suggests that the ice cover in the Arctic Ocean was greatly reduced some 6000-7000 years ago. The Arctic Ocean may have been periodically ice free.

”The climate in the northern regions has never been milder since the last Ice Age than it was about 6000-7000 years ago. We still don’t know whether the Arctic Ocean was completely ice free, but there was more open water in the area north of Greenland than there is today,” says Astrid Lyså, a geologist and researcher at the Geological Survey of Norway (NGU).
”The beach ridges which we have had dated to about 6000-7000 years ago were shaped by wave activity,” says Astrid Lyså. They are located at the mouth of Independence Fjord in North Greenland, on an open, flat plain facing directly onto the Arctic Ocean. Today, drift ice forms a continuous cover from the land here.

Astrid Lyså says that such old beach formations require that the sea all the way to the North Pole was periodically ice free for a long time.

Yes, old news in that it’s from 2008. What is interesting here is the juxtaposition of (what we are told will be catastrophic) open water in the Arctic; with people living in a wide green belt in what is now the Sahara Desert, and developing the start of dairy herding, milk collection, and more. This is likely the time when the gene for long term digestion of lactose first developed as well. (Which implies that the people here have as descendents those folks with the ability to metabolize lactose into adult ages).

This article has some ideas on when that was via genetics, but the range is very wide:


Because these various LP-associated alleles are found on several different haplotypic backgrounds [14,20,34], it is now clear that LP has evolved multiple times and is thus an example of convergent evolution [35].

Using genetic variation in regions surrounding LCT, it is possible to obtain estimates of the age of specific LP-associated alleles. Dates of origin for −13910*T ranging between 2188 and 20 650 years ago [36], and between 7450 and 12 300 years ago [37] have been obtained using extended haplotype homozygosity (EHH) and variation at closely linked microsatellites, respectively. Similar dates (1200–23 200 years old) were also obtained for one of the major African variants (−14010*C) using EHH [20]. These date estimates are remarkably recent for alleles that are found at such high frequencies in multiple populations.

So we’ve got nice ‘bracketing’ of that period of time, but with fairly wide brackets.

There is an “African Pump” theory that says that the periodic drying / greening of the Sahara “pumps” various species out of Africa and into the Middle East / Europe / Central Asia. There is some fair evidence for that in several eras. A “reasonable” supposition is that this particular issue of the “pump” lead directly to the rise of Ancient Egypt and likely as well the other ancient dairy / herding societies to their north (such as the Hittites, Sumerians, and more). Yet, there were already cultures living to the north.


So perhaps there was an already existing culture to the north doing some of these things and this African operation was ‘out in the boonies’ and a bit behind? Who knows… We do know that there was a megalithic culture in Turkey in about 12,000 BC (link in the just above linked article); so as much as 5,000 years earlier, some other culture was building things in Turkey…

I think the assertion that the Africa pastoralists were “the first” is still in doubt.

IMHO, this article is still a great accomplishment, to demonstrate a known early date; but I suspect the reality is that that particular technology had been in use for a very long time further north. Just not preserved in the wetter, more erosive, places there.

Heck, it might just as easily be that when the Sahara greened, some of those folks up north moved down into it, and it is they we see depicted on those rocks… bringing a pre-existing pastoralism with them.

In any case, what we do have here is a very clear set of important, demonstrated, facts:

1) The world has been warmer than now, by quite a bit, and for quite a long time, in very recent history in geologic and biologic time scales. 5000 BC is an eyeblink for evolution. Clearly every single species alive today has survived a warmer climate regime.

2) IFF we get warmer, we gain a very large lush land for crops and animals in the Green Sahara. Not exactly a problem…

3) People thrived then, and civilization began. Hardly the end of things, more like a warm wet green beginning.

4) Climate changes. All on its own. From completely natural causes. And by far more than we’ve seen in the entire history of fossil fuel use and modern civilization. CO2 didn’t do it. CO2 is not the cause, nor the problem.

Then one conclusion:

5) Given that, we’ve got a LOT more to worry about than how much coal and oil are burned.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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26 Responses to Low / No Ice Arctic 5000 BC

  1. Ralph B says:

    I check out the ice area page on WUWT now and again. On that page there is a graph showing the arctic temperature trend and that trend now is showing warmer than normal by several degrees. Now I see that and think that as an indicator of how much energy the ocean is radiating out and is lost. With an ice covered arctic I believe (cocktail party theory) the energy loss would be less and the temperature trend would be lower (wish I could see what it was in ’07). Add into that the additional latent heat released during refreeze and would expect a drop in ocean heat content. To top it all off Bob Tisdale theory has El Nino as a release of ocean heat. What does this all portend? I have no clue, but it does seem like the warming 80’s may be looked upon longingly.

  2. Espen says:

    Hardangervidda, which is a mountain plateau covering a large part of the interior of southern Norway, is well above the tree line today. 6000 years ago, there were forests, and pine logs from back then can still be found in bogs.

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    There would have been no reason for lactose tolerance to develop until humans were keeping cattle, and using milk.
    As for those past civilisations, usually associated with stone structures partially or fully under water on the coast somewhere e.g. Morocco, here is something relatively new.
    Neil Oliver, well known for the Coast programme, is actually an archaeologist and in this special edition of A History of Ancient Britain: Orkney’s Stone Age Temple he outlines the discovery at the Ness of Brodgar of a stone age site eclipsing everything else on Orkney (which takes some doing!) and even the Stonehenge and Avebury complex.
    Try http://www.kenstuart.com/fp/Aerial.html  and  http://www.kenstuart.com/fp/Structure10.html for site views.
    Timing is well before Stonehenge. Skara Brae close by is a stone age village from approx. 2800BC with evidence of writing. Also water supply and in hut sewerage.

  4. Pascvaks says:

    Ahhh… the first teacher Nature; the second teacher Man Who Listens To Nature; the third teacher Man Who Does Not Listen. I have a feeling that Man Who Does Not Listen will not be with us much longer and that there are not enough second teachers and first teacher will once again teach. Just a feeling, I can not hear very well anymore.

  5. adolfogiurfa says:

    Like AWD SUVS! and Don´t like the preachers of evil, like “Al Baby”

  6. Dave says:

    So I wonder how this would have impacted the desert SW in the US? The latitude is similar. Might explain the early NA cultures “disappearing” for no apparent reason if it went from excessively lush to arid in a relatively short amount of time.

  7. Julian Jones says:

    Might the early cultures have disappeared in SW US because they disturbed an otherwise fragile ecology, quite probably helped along by some solar variability that coincided to tip the balance, and once degraded, it could not recover, without a little help ,,, ?

    Its never too late, similarly for arid Africa & Mid East. Great work going on India (and elsewhere) transforming & restoring rivers with simple rainwater harvesting principles; very quickly, takes about 5 years.

    Aridity and loss of ‘culture’ seems an ongoing problem.

  8. John F. Hultquist says:

    Ralph B says:
    18 September 2012 at 8:05 am
    (wish I could see what it was in ’07).

    Do you mean this chart?

    The table on the left allows you to look at 1958 through to the current day.

    Take a look at 1974. At about day 250+ the temp began dropping like a stone. Look again at this year – now dropping like a stone!

    E.M. says “So IFF we actually did warm, what would be so bad about a green Sahara?…”

    I think it interesting that there are many folks using ice on the Arctic Ocean as some sort of marker – a marker for a terrible end, tipping point, or whatever. While it is something that can be measured like the end date of the Mayan Calendar (fewer than 100 days now), both are misunderstood and equally meaningless to most folks. As you say, it is likely to be beneficial rather than the end of humans and Gaia too.

  9. KevinM says:

    Not sure you can make the leap that because the last time the ice melted Sahara was green, the next time the ice melts Sahhara will be green. Kind of like the last time my dog barked someone was at the door… Maybe this time he just sees a squirrel.

  10. Ralph B says:

    Thanks John…that is exactly what I was thinking of. You can see similarity w/2007. I say the cliff is because the water is at phase change now and ready to freeze no longer rolling. Once the freeze starts temps will plateau for a bit as the latent heat is released then plunge again. My theory anyway…

  11. Espen says:

    E.M., did you see the news that they’ve discovered that there were skilled hunters in central Europe 300000 years ago? (http://phys.org/news/2012-09-skilled-hunters-years.html). That would have been after the Holstein Interglacial (MIS-11). I guess we’ll never know if they also settled in Scandinavia back then, since every trace of them would have been crunched by ice THREE times, but I guess it’s quite probable.

  12. DirkH says:

    Espen says:
    20 September 2012 at 2:07 pm
    “E.M., did you see the news that they’ve discovered that there were skilled hunters in central Europe 300000 years ago?”

    These are not the first spears from that age found in Germany.

    Some old spears were discovered in Schöningen, 20 km east of Braunschweig (where I live) in an open lignite pit. So, if you dig in the right place you might find something even in Scandinavia.

    My area has harsher winters than the German coast (and Tübingen, where the new ones were found, harsher still), as we’re 200 km inland. If they survived here, surviving in what is today Hamburg, Kopenhagen or Stockholm is a piece of cake, as the proximity of the North Sea results in milder winter conditions. Assuming sea level was what it is today … it has probably changed many times so we don’t know whether the bottom of the North Sea would have been land at that time… but probably not. It’s probably only dry there during glaciations. See here:

  13. AndyG55 says:

    Ralph. John.. I agree that the heat loss in the Arctic is not something that is good. I suspect the northern winter will particularly harsh, particularly as so many places have decimated their real electricity supply systems. The rise in electricty costs, and the un-reliability of the current “renewable” supplies should be of great concern to all northern countries.

    I hope I am wrong, else I see a MAJOR disaster happening.

  14. David Ball says:

    Always enjoy the historic perspective. Great piece. Thank you Mr. Smith.

  15. Pascvaks says:

    @Espen,DirkH – Interesting. Looks like the flint point (photo) that was being carved had a flaw; or the carver made a bobo and took too much off in one whack of the whip bone spoiling the point; what I thought was curious (not that I’d ever really thought much about it) was that the carver had done fine edge work on half of the piece before even getting it down to a good shape by knocking off the larger pieces –seems like a waste of effort to do fine work before large cuts and general shape. Then I thought, ta daa.., maybe dad had discarded the piece as flawed after taking some large chunks off and picked it up later for junior to use as a training aid on edge work. All that from a pic of a piece of rock 300K years old.

    PS: More and more we seem to be getting better at ‘making’ things smaller and smaller, that takes tools of course, and as we improve in that arena I believe we’ll get to the point soon that archeologists will move from soft bristle brushes to some form of capture that affords them the ability to take dirt cores and make analyses the way they do ice cores already. Eventually, getting to the point that they are down to moleculaar and atomic analysis. (Remember that old saying about “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”, think maybe, after all the life that has lived and died on this rock, and all the rna/dna –whole and pieces– that must be scattered everywhere from all that life, that we’re contaminating and flicking away coutless gigabites of information with our little soft bristle brushes?;-)

  16. adolfogiurfa says:

    @Pascvaks: We should worry about who will be able to read our information in the future, as all information is now recorded on invisible bytes. Then we should start carving some stones….just in case :-)

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    BTW Has any archeologist ever tried to search for some binary code laser inscriptions in ancient civilizations remnants?

  18. Pascvaks says:

    @Adolfo – With so much proof that we know so little, when and why did we ever start thinking that we knew so much?;-)

  19. adolfogiurfa says:

    That´s the “trick” which the Illuminati used to cheat us, to alienate us from real knowledge which can be comprised and perfectly resumed in a single symbol carved in stone…or in a deck of cards.

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    I think I’ve reached a new benchmark… Just a couple of days, 20 comments, and I’ve not had a chance to catch up with the discussion ;-)

    OK, I’ve done a couple more postings, so now we’ll see If I can catch up with everyone else…

    @Ralph B:

    As I’ve noted before, there’s an 18 year ‘lag’ or so between changes near the equator and when they reach near Alaska. What we’ve got in the Arctic reflects what was going on in about 1994 further south. So in about 3 years, it ought to start dropping pretty fast ‘up north’.

    For now, yes, the dark water is radiating like crazy…


    Nice one! New history to learn and another bit of evidence!

    @Graeme No.3:

    Before Stonehenge? I like it! (Stonehenge is one of my favorite muses… any precursor is of interest…)

    The first link says he’s on vacation, come back for an updated version later. The second one is ‘way cool’!

    Hey, if you lived in Orkney would you want to go outside on a cold winter nite for the loo? ;-)

    I suspect we’ll eventually figure out that people have been basically the same, and living in villages with homes, and small cities, for many 10s of thousands of years. Just that the evidence for it is not well preserved.


    And perhaps some things found in the dirt…


    There’s an odd “opposition” in the data. The North American data shows a lot of desertification then. So when the Sahara is green and lush, the Midwest USA has a Dust Bowl..

    From here:

    From: https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/drought-is-not-a-global-warming-sign/

    This graph:


    @Julian Jones:

    There’s pretty good evidence for “mega-droughts” in California in other parts of the USA and even down into S. America. They tend to match the collapse of civilizations.

    @John F. Hultquist:

    THE key requirement to have an interglacial is for ice to melt near / above the arctic circle.

    THE key indication of onset of an ice age glacial is for ice to not melt above the arctic circle.

    The folks cheering for “multiyear ice” have no idea how stupid they are being. Like a dog chasing a car, if they DO sink their teeth into that wheel and get what they are asking for; they will really regret it…


    There’s more than just coincidence. I didn’t put it in this posting, but the “mechanism” has also been worked out. A hotter Sahara has more inflow (due to rising air) of damp air, and that brings rains with it. That starts a green feedback loop with ever increasing rain. Similarly, there looks to be a displacement of the Jet Stream such that more rains come too.

    @Ralph B:

    Well, keep an eye on it and if it does as expected, come back and “crow” about it! ;-)


    Had not seen that. Then again, people have been ‘hunting’ just about as long as we’ve been people. Looks like we started as scavengers (breaking open large bones that cats could not break) using stones. Sucking the marrow. Then ‘moved up’ to more direct hunting. As Chimps are known to hunt monkeys, it likely dates back even earlier in us ;-)

    In a way, that’s an amazing find. In another, it mostly just confirms what we know people ought to have been doing.

    From the wiki:

    Homo heidelbergensis (“Heidelberg Man”, named after the University of Heidelberg) is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins dates them between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago.

    So “grampa” be it via the modern line or via my Neander side ;-)


    More? Ok.

    FWIW, I suspect folks, like all other critters, were migrating north and south with the Glaciations for several (many?) cycles…

    @David Ball:

    You are most welcome!


    It’s not all that hard to figure out how to burn coal again. Frankly, a really harsh winter now might save a whole lot more deaths in a decade…


    I’d figure they just used the sharp / fine edge as a small scraper… but ‘practice piece’ could work too.

    We’re already doing some of the micro-stuff. Pollen studies. Isotopes. Dust layering. Micro-diamonds and shock-quartz for impacts.


    Nobody has looked for micro-binary that I know of.

    I’ve suggested doing some ‘laser printed decals’ and putting them on tiles, then glazing them; as a simpler automated way to make sturdy “clay tablets”…


    So just have your favorite book put on decals, put those on large tiles, and tile your home. In a few thousand years you can make some historians and archaeologists very happy…

    (Or be buried with a batch of them… I’ve told the spouse to bury me with a crown, even a copper one, and a sword. They always say the guy with a sword and crown in his grave was the king. It’s likely my only shot at it. ;-)

  21. Ralph B says:

    Too early to crow? Yeah…don’t want to end up eating any but clearing my throat in prep…

  22. E.M.Smith says:

    @Ralph B:

    Well, I just had to close my office window. (Left open 3 seasons, closed in winter). This is a bit early.

    I’ve noticed that since the sun went sleepy and the air height reduced, things seem to change faster. Gustier winds. More rapid reversals. I suspect you will have a lot of crowing to do shortly…

  23. Tim Clark says:

    That would have been after the Holstein Interglacial …….

    I guess you’re referring to the lush Saharan cattle jockey period…;o)

  24. Tim Clark says:

    On an off-topic side conservation……I’m flying out to Pleasanton, CA the middle of November. What are the mechanics of airport usage, i.e. cheaper small ones…closer to Pleasanton….. supersonic availability ;o)….sights to see (outside of San Fran-I don’t care to fight crowds of Californians) …etc. I need to book a flight, from Wichita. You have my e-mail address. Sorry for this intrusion, but I hate to travel without advance knowledge.

  25. E.M.Smith says:

    @Tim Clark:

    Sorry for the slow response…

    Airports: I assume “commercial” flights. SFO is usually cheapest, but on the wrong side of the bay, yet BART will take you to Dublin / Pleasanton:
    so It’s nearly nothing to get there (an hour or two, BART is INSIDE the SFO complex / station) just watch out for arriving at midnight…

    After that, you have SJC San Jose is ‘close’ if you rent a car and has both light rail ‘nearby’ and an Amtrak line inside taxi / light rail range.

    Schedule more limited than BART, so check it…

    There’s buses too, but I don’t know their limits (and Amtrak runs some of them anyway).

    IMHO after that it gets more limited. Oakland and Hayward are not too different from SJC in distance, but don’t know if they have any mass transit options (ie. BART / Amtrack) so best to check on them or buses. Both are OK airports ( I’ve done both to other parts of the country) and sometimes have lower fairs (why I’ve done them ;-)

    Some of it depends a bit on what part of Pleasanton and way and do you need a rental car. Just flying into any of them with a rental car is fairly easy (though I’d likely do Oakland then).

    Sights to see depends on what you like. In San Jose we have the Woz tech museum and the Winchester Mystery House along with more stuff reachable by light rail than I can list. (Even things like getting off near Moffett field and seeing Hangar One being (torn down / remodeled depending on the week / politics du jour) or or you can hit up Castro Street in Mountain View for more restaurants than I care to think about.

    Maybe I’ll make an open thread posting out of it…

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