Across vast swathes of northern Europe, plant life began to change – broadleaf trees were outcompeted by hardier pines suited to the frigid temperatures – and animals and humans alike would have been forced to adapt to the sudden, drastic changes.
Now, in a new study out today in Nature Ecology & Environment, archaeologists from the University of Oxford have opened a small, misty window into this early Holocene upheaval, to see how one community changed in response.
The site, the Yuzhniy Oleniy Ostrov (YOO) cemetery in northern Russia, sits on an island in the vast Lake Onega, 350 kilometres north-east of St Petersburg. Radiocarbon dating of remains in the cemetery shows that it was mainly used for a short window of around 200 years, spanning some 10 generations, and that its use coincided with this mini-Ice Age.
So why might people suddenly decide to organise their dead at a time of stress? The clue, the researchers say, lies in the lake.