Tag Archives: South Asia

45,000 years old quartz tools found in a cave in Sri Lanka

Small and retouched stone tools known as microliths that date back around 45,000 years were found in a Sri Lankan cave, representing the earliest evidence of such advanced technology in South Asia, according to a new study.

Sri Lanka’s rainforest. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Archaeologists had previously thought that rainforests presented a barrier to the early spread of humankind. In comparison to the environments of Europe and Africa, these dense tropical surroundings are considerably more challenging to both travel through and inhabit.

Nevertheless, the research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, dismissed that idea. The discovery of these tools, which are believed to have been weapons to kill animals hiding in trees, suggests humanity spread more diversely than was thought.

Archaeologist Oshan Wedage, of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, and colleagues analyzed microliths from the west Sri Lankan cave of Fa-Hein Lena, that date back 48,000–45,000 years ago.

Microliths are considered to be the product of composite weapons produced by cultures with advanced strategies for hunting and thriving in challenging environments. Such tools are known from European sites of this age, but this is the oldest microlith assemblage in South Asia and the oldest known from a rainforest environment.

The authors suggested that these tools were likely part of composite projectile technology used to hunt and capture tree-dwelling prey, though more research will be needed to confirm their exact functions.

“Whatever the results, these miniaturized stone tools place Sri Lanka in a central position in terms of discussing technological sophistication among our species. We have essentially uncovered the “Upper Palaeolithic’ of the rainforest.” Patrick Roberts, a co-corresponding author, said.

The similarity of Fa-Hien Lena technology to that of local cultures as recent as 4,000 years old reflects long-term stability in rainforest technology in the region. This technology, along with the rise of more complex social structures, may have been part of the ‘toolkit’ that allowed Late Pleistocene humans to spread to nearly every environment on the planet.

Sri Lanka has been a prominent part of discussions of early human adaptations to tropical rainforests, though there has been a lack of systematic, detailed analysis of the technological strategies that demonstrate a clearly specialized adaptation to such environments.

“We undertook detailed measurements of stone tools and reconstructed their production patterns at the site of Fa-Hien Lena Cave,’ said Wedage. “This is the site with the earliest evidence for human occupation in Sri Lanka. We found clear evidence for the production of miniaturized stone tools.”

Stop Pollution or Face Severe Storms in South Asia

Hyderabad (South India): Man is the maker of his own destiny, say elders. The latest scientific studies on oceans endorse this adage.

Be it  severe cyclonic storms, significant rainfall reductions, crop damages, mass mortalities and melting of Himalayan glaciers – all these could be prevented, if not minimized to a large extent, if we adopt changes in our urban life styles, researchers claim.

Unchecked use of diesel and burning of biomass has led to spewing out billions of dust particles, forming what is known as “atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs), in the air, affecting the atmospheric and oceanic circulation over the Arabian Sea.

In the multi-institutional study, published recently in the journal “Nature”, scientists of the world famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), UC San Diego, who formed part of the study, cautioned against man-made pollution making the Arabian Sea more cyclone intense.

In the last 30 years, increased amounts of airborne particles (aerosols) in South Asia have altered the pattern of the Sun’s heating of the ocean, changing the regional wind patterns and weakening the wind shear, making conditions more favorable for intense tropical cyclone development.

“We’re showing that pollution from human activity, as simple as burning wood or driving a vehicle with a diesel engine, can actually change these massive atmospheric phenomena in a significant way,” said study lead author Amato Evan, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. “It underscores the importance of getting a handle on emissions in the region.”

The scientists had also noted a trend of increasingly strong cyclones in the months immediately preceding monsoon season.

They had attributed formation of stronger cyclones in recent years – including storms in 2007 and 2010 that were the first recorded ever to enter the Gulf of Oman – to the ABC phenomenon.

The build-up of the 3-km thick brown cloud over the Arabian Sea has “dimmed” the prospect of ocean warming in the region affecting the seasonal rains in South Asia, study of 30-year data showed.

A 1998 cyclone in India’s west coast of Gujarat claimed lives of 2,900 people.

Category-5 cyclone Gonu with more than 240 KMPH wind speed, made an extremely rare landfall in Iran in 2007, causing more than $4 billion in damage.

Category-4 cyclone Phet in 2010 struck the coastlines of Pakistan and Oman causing nearly $2 billion in damage.

“This study is a striking example of how human actions, on a large enough scale, in this case massive regional air pollution caused by inefficient fuel combustion, can result in unintended consequences,” said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which partially funded the research.

“These consequences include highly destructive summer cyclones that were rare or non-existent in this region for 30 or so years ago.”

“The research shows that pollution can threaten humans in unexpected ways. In this case, by reducing wind shear in the Arabian Sea and making conditions more favorable for tropical cyclones to intensify,” added report co-author James Kossin, a climatologist at the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“The one silver lining is that the atmospheric concentrations of these pollutants can be reduced drastically and quickly using available technologies,” says SIO’s climate and atmospheric scientist DR.Veerabhadran Ramanathan of India who also co-authored the study.

The scientists used findings from direct observations and model studies of ABCs made by Dr.Ramanathan.

The other co-author of the study is Chul “Eddy” Chung of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.