Indexed on: 30 Apr '10Published on: 30 Apr '10Published in: Journal of Human Evolution
Climate change is frequently considered an important driver of hominin evolution and dispersal patterns. The role of climate change in the last phase (900-700 ka) of the Middle Pleistocene Transition (MPT) in the Levant and northeast Africa was examined, using marine and non-marine records. During the MPT the global climate system shifted from a linear 41 k.yr. into a highly non-linear 100 k.yr. system, considerably changing its global modulation. Northeast Africa aridity further intensified around 950ka, as indicated by a sharp increase in dust flux, and a jump to overall higher levels thereafter, coinciding with a lack of sapropels in the deep eastern Mediterranean (930-690ka). The increased dust flux centering at ∼800ka corresponds to the minima in 400 k.yr. eccentricity, a minima in 65 °N solar forcing and in the weakest African monsoon precession periodicity. This resulted in expansion of hyper-arid conditions across North Africa, the lowest lake levels in eastern Africa and the lowest rainfall in the Nile River headwaters. In the eastern Mediterranean an increasing continental signature is seen in glacial stages 22 (∼880ka) and 20 (∼800ka). Lower arboreal pollen values also indicate arid conditions during these glacial stages. The southern and eastern parts of the Negev Desert, unlike its northern part, were hyper-arid during the MPT, making them highly unsustainable. The fluctuations in the stands of Lake Amora follow global climate variability but were more moderate than those of its last glacial Lake Lisan successor. In the northern Jordan-Valley Hula Lake, frequent fluctuations in lake level coincide with both global climate changes and minor changes in water salinity varying from fresh to oligohaline. It appears therefore that the most pronounced and widespread deterioration in climate occurred in northeast Africa from 900 to 700ka, whereas in the Levant the corresponding climatic changes were more moderate.