August 14, 2015

How The Ice Age gave birth to Human Civilization

Everyone knows of annual variations that take place as the Earth orbits around the Sun. However there are other much longer duration variations that also take place. As the Earth spins around its axis and orbits around the Sun, several other periodic variations occur. Milankovitch, a Russian Scientist, studied some of these changes in Earth's movements and described what are known as Milkanovitch Cycles. Such changes in movement and orientation alter the amount and location of solar radiation reaching the Earth and are a cause of various ice ages and variations within the ice ages that the planet has witnessed in the past. There are other factors that also contribute to the occurrence of such major climatic changes.

There have been at least five ice ages in the past and presently we live in a relatively warm portion of an ice age that is currently on. That is why the polar ice sheets still exist. Some say that this will end after 50,000 years while a recent research study says it shall be as soon as 2030.  Because these changes are a result of cycles, they do not take place suddenly but rather slowly as the seasons change, but in this case over centuries rather than days. If the latest theory backed by impressive scientific evidence (see here), about the end of inter glacial is true then a slow cooling period will begin on the planet in 2030.

The current Ice Age started around two and a half million years ago. it is only in the relatively recent portion of this ice age that animals like apes evolved into humans and began to spread across the world.  Since the ice age began, the world has seen cycles of glaciations with ice sheets advancing and retreating on 40,000 to 100,000 year time scales called glacial periods (cold). The earth is currently in an interglacial (warm period) after the last glacial period ended about 11000 years ago. All that remains of the continental ice sheets are now confined to Polar Regions because of this temporary warming.

A northward movement, as far north as Turkey may have begun soon after the end of the glacial period as ancient archeological discoveries reveal. For example see,

During the cold periods, sea levels fall and coastal regions are exposed while most regions around the north and south freeze up. Regions around the equators remain green and habitable. Any life on the planet that can gradually move over to these equatorial regions survives the freezing cold by escaping from regions where life becomes nearly impossible as in the arctic regions now.

It seems that many humans and animals from Europe and Central Asia would have moved first to warmer South Asia and then gradually to the southern tips of  South Asia as the cold advanced, simply because that is a region closest to the equator in the old world of Asia and Europe connected with the continents by land. At that time, far more land area was exposed than now because the sea levels had fallen. During the glacial period crossing the Himalayas would have been impossible by migrants because of ice sheets covering the passes. However, coastal routes would have become easier and wider with the sea receding and it is these routes the early migrants and even animals are likely to have followed.

An estimate of the most habitable parts of the world during glacial portions of the ice age

It seems the language spoken by such migrating humans to South Asia would have been early forms of  Indo-European languages and the complexion of these humans fair. In southern India these Indo-European humans would have encountered a darker human Australoid race that was already settled there as has been established by modern DNA mapping and out of Africa theories. These persons would have spoken early forms of Australoid languages that towards the end of the glacial period seems to have evolved into early forms of what are known as Dravidian languages with ancient Tamil being the most prominent of them.

The intermixture of races and cultures that took place seems to have led to the emergence of earliest organized human civilization towards the end of the last glacial period in these southern coastal regions around 10,000 to 11000 years ago. The prominent racial quality appears to have been Australoid and the language an early form of Tamil although mixtures with fairer Indo European races and languages would have existed within it. This mixture continues up to present times.

As the interglacial period began and sea level began to rise, coastal regions began to get submerged once more. Ancient Tamil records have stories of this successive submergence of southern coastal cities. Simultaneously ice sheets began to melt in the North and thus began a movement of people northwards again. The most civilized of these early Tamil people, when they reached northern regions of Indus Valley, Elam and Sumer became the rulers, at first over people who spoke a different language and were fairer. In Indus valley they were the Indo European people who arrived there earlier speaking early forms of Sanskrit. In Sumer it was the Akkadians. It has now been shown that Sumerian and Elam languages were early versions of the Australoid Tamil and the rulers a dark race. Similarly in early mythological stories of Indus region, the rulers and godly kings such as Krishna and Rama are dark personalities while the population is fair in the majority. Over time Majority rule prevailed again in Sumer and Indus Valley as is natural and local languages and races reasserted as in the present with early forms of Tamil disappearing from these parts (except for a few isolated pockets such as one in Balochistan). Tamil has continued and developed in its original southern homeland until present times.

While this northward and westward movement of civilization took place another movement took place towards the east in a movement that lasted until relatively recent times, as late as around a thousand years ago, and the Angkor Wats of South East Asia are a culmination of the creation of ancient civilization there and a glimpse of these early humans who spread the seeds of civilization as we know of now on the planet.

This appears to be in brief the story of birth of human civilization in the past. The Egyptian civilization sprang from an off shoot of the Sumerians. More detailed descriptions with specific details of this story are in earlier articles in this blog.

Some may wonder what will happen when the ice age we are in ends? Would most of the planet become too warm for comfort? What would happen to human civilization then? Well if we are still around by then we shall simply move to the Arctic and Antarctica that shall become nice and green at that time.

A record breaking heat wave exposes the roof of a home in New York in glacial July 2130. 97% of scientists say it is a result of global warming caused by human activity :) 

Image source:,_NY_%28Parker_Blvd_between_Brompton_Rd_and_Ellicott_Creek_Rd%29.jpg

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