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Popular theory of ‘volcanic winter’ killing early humans is at the centre of debate over climate and evolution


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  • Chinese palaeoanthropologists dispute long-held notion that Toba eruption 74,000 years ago wiped out populations

  • The origin of modern humans is more likely affected by a number of factors, including interactions between groups, rather than one event, says archaeologist

The last eruption of the Toba volcano was about 74,000 years ago in northern Sumatra,

Up to 3,000 cubic kilometres of mass were thrown up, releasing an amount of energy equivalent to 300,000 Hiroshima bombs.

According to a prevailing theory, the Toba eruption caused a “volcanic winter” that wiped out early humans, sparing only a few lucky survivors in Eastern Africa, who became the direct ancestors of every human being today.

A recent study by a team of Chinese palaeoanthropologists found the theory, which has captured the public imagination for more than two decades with “tantalising simplicity”, could be rubbish.

Periodic instances of atmospheric cooling as a result of volcanic activity have been documented. These have caused crop failures & resulting starvation.

There is a popular theory that the eruption on the island of Santorini caused many of the plagues in Egypt documented in the Bible book of Exodus: https://www.greeka.com/cyclades/santorini/sightseeing/santorini-volcano/biblical/


“It is time to relegate this hypothesis to the dustbin of history,” said the researchers led by Professor Gao Xing of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, in a peer-reviewed-paper published in the journal Quaternary International in July.
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