The Effects of Climate Change on Archeology

Humans have been influencing climate change on a global scale since the late 19th century, but it has only recently become a major concern to the general population. That being said, even with drastic efforts being made to counteract global warming, data displayed by predicts that global temperatures will continue to rise from +2.6 to + 4.8 °C by the end of the 21st century. Not only does this affect the narratives of the present, however, but new discoveries also reveal that the climate change crisis is affecting the narratives of the past.

Million Metric Tons of Carbon in the atmosphere vs. year. Graph by Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres 2017Throughout the planet, temperatures are oscillating at unnatural paces. Two results from these fluctuations are flash floods and droughts in environments unprepared for such disasters. Unfortunately, archeology is heavily affected by these events: an example being the Mississippi River basin. Due to heavy flooding occurring two and a half years ago along with a present-day drought, artifacts in the Mississippi River basin are being greatly disturbed. This disturbance destroys context vital for archeologists to make proper assumptions about the past. quotes, “Archaeological sites do best either staying underwater water or staying on dry ground. Going back and forth is not good” (Charles McGimsey, the Louisiana state archaeologist).

Ancient shipwreck uncovered due to flooding in Mississippi River basin 

Nevertheless, data discovered through archeology may be the key to preserving archeology in the future. Though humans have only been affecting climate change for the past 250 years, humans have always been experiencing climate change. It is through archeological records that scientists can see how humans have dealt with changes in the climate in the past and try to apply that data to the present efforts to stop day global warming. Climate modelers and earth scientists are teaming up with archaeologists using paleoclimate and archaeological records to help evaluate the coming climate dangers to develop a sustainable answer

Climate change is a more pressing issue now than it ever has been. For the first time in history, both humanity’s past and future are at risk. The successful efforts made by archaeologists today to help counteract global warming beautifully display the importance of preserving the past. If climate change is left unchecked, lessons learned in the past may be forever lost.


Burke, Ariane. “The Archaeology of Climate Change: The Case for Cultural Diversity | PNAS.” PNAS ,

Cusick, Daniel. “Climate Change Is Adding Urgency to Archaeology.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 31 Oct. 2022,

“North Carolina Office of State Archaeology.” Predicting Effects of Climate Change on Archaeological Sites | NC Archaeology,


Further Reading:

“Climate Change (U.S. National Park Service).” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 5 Oct. 2021,

“Using Archeology to Better Understand Climate Change.” UdeMNouvelles, 12 May 2022,

Origin of Tools

Human technology has come a long way. Presently, there are tools everywhere that humans use on a daily basis, but that was not always the case. Homo habilis, a human ancestor that lived roughly 2.4 to 1.5 million years ago, was previously thought to be the first species to make and use primitive tools. The name Homo habilis even translates to handyman due to their remains frequently being found with Oldowan tools. Oldowan tools or Oldowan Industrial Complexes are stone cores that have been struck to break flakes off of them to leave a sharper edge to the stone that could be used for slicing animal carcasses. At one point, Oldowan Industrial Complexes were thought to have been the first evidence of human cultural behavior, but that is no longer the case.

An artist’s rendition of a member of the species Homo habilis making a tool of the Oldowan type.

In 2011, researchers in Kenya discovered stones used for cutting and hammering dating 3.3 million years ago, hundreds of thousands of years before Archeologists believed the first tools were created. Such a drastic shift in timeline brings up numerous questions with one being, “who used these primitive tools?” Though recent evidence suggests that the origin of the genus Homo could be as old as 2.8 million years, that would still not be old enough for a member of the genus Homo to have created the first tools. Dr. Taylor, from the National Centre of Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, remarks, “There are a number of possible candidates at present.” The two hominins that are most likely to have been the first tool users, however, are Australopithecus afarensis and Kenyanthropus platyops. Both species were present in Kenya 3.3 million years ago, and both species were previously thought to not be intelligent enough to use tools, but that idea has since been contested.

Oldowan Choppers from the Olduvai Gorge

Though the more primitive tools are similar to Oldowan Industrial Complexes, consisting of flakes, cores, and anvils, archaeologist Sonia Harmand of Stony Brook University proposed that the new discovery be labeled Lomekwian technology. Cut marks on animals bones dating 3.4 million years ago suggest that Lomekwian technology also served the same purpose as Oldowan tools, but Sonia Harmand still believes that they must be in a separate category, as they look too different and are too old compared to Oldowan implements to describe the same technology. Human technology is ever-changing but its origin is finally understood.


Balter, Michael. “World’s Oldest Stone Tools Discovered in Kenya.” Science,

“Homo Habilis: Early Toolmakers.” The Human Journey, 17 June 2020,,scraping%20off%20meat%20from%20bones.

Morelle, Rebecca. “Oldest Stone Tools Pre-Date Earliest Humans.” BBC News, BBC, 20 May 2015,

“A Snapshot of Human Origins.” NPR, NPR, 11 June 2003,,than%20the%20Homo%20erectus%20brain.