The late Pleistocene is an unofficial age in the international geologic timescale in chronostratigraphy, also known as upper Pleistocene from a stratigraphic perspective. It is intended to be the fourth division of the Pleistocene Epoch within the ongoing Quaternary Period. It is currently defined as the time between c. 129,000 and c. 11,700 years ago. The late Pleistocene equates to the proposed Tarantian Age of the geologic time scale, preceded by the officially ratified Chibanian (commonly known as Middle Pleistocene) and succeeded by the officially ratified Greenlandian.[1] The estimated beginning of the Tarantian is the start of the Eemian interglacial period (Marine Isotope Stage 5).[5] It is held to end with the termination of the Younger Dryas, some 11,700 years ago when the Holocene Epoch began.[2]

Late/Upper Pleistocene
0.129 – 0.0117 Ma
Name formalityInformal
Proposed name(s)Tarantian
Usage information
Celestial bodyEarth
Regional usageGlobal (ICS)
Time scale(s) usedICS Time Scale
Chronological unitAge
Stratigraphic unitStage
Time span formalityFormal
Lower boundary definitionNot formally defined
Lower boundary definition candidatesMarine Isotope Substage 5e
Lower boundary GSSP candidate section(s)None
Upper boundary definitionEnd of the Younger Dryas stadial
Upper boundary GSSPNGRIP2 ice core, Greenland
75°06′00″N 42°19′12″W / 75.1000°N 42.3200°W / 75.1000; -42.3200
Upper GSSP ratified14 June 2018 (as base of Greenlandian)[3][4]
  • 110th century BC
  • 109th century BC
  • 108th century BC
  • 107th century BC
  • 106th century BC
  • 105th century BC
  • 104th century BC
  • 103rd century BC
  • 102nd century BC
  • 101st century BC
Violet: Extent of the Alpine ice sheet in the Würm glaciation. Blue: Extent in earlier ice ages.

The term Upper Pleistocene is currently in use as a provisional or "quasi-formal" designation by the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS). Although the three oldest ages of the Pleistocene (the Gelasian, the Calabrian and the Chibanian) have been officially defined, the late Pleistocene has yet to be formally defined, along with consideration of a proposed Anthropocene sub-division of the Holocene.[6]

The main feature of the late Pleistocene was glaciation, for example the Würm glaciation in the Alps of Europe, to 14 ka, and the subsequent Younger Dryas. Many megafaunal animals became extinct during this age as part of the Quaternary extinction event, a trend that continued into the Holocene. In palaeoanthropology, the late Pleistocene contains the Upper Palaeolithic stage of human development, including many of the early human migrations and the extinction of the last remaining archaic human species.

Last Ice Age edit

The proposed beginning of the late Pleistocene is the end of the Penultimate Glacial Period (PGP) 126 ka when the Riß glaciation (Alpine) was being succeeded by the Eemian (Riß-Würm) interglacial period.[7] The Riß-Würm ended 115 ka with the onset of the Last Glacial Period (LGP) which is known in Europe as the Würm (Alpine) or Devensian (Great Britain) or Weichselian glaciation (northern Europe); these are broadly equated with the Wisconsin glaciation (North America), though technically that began much later.[7]

The Last Glacial Maximum was reached during the later millennia of the Würm/Weichselian, estimated between 26 ka and 19 ka when deglaciation began in the Northern Hemisphere. The Würm/Weichselian endured until 16 ka with Northern Europe, including most of Great Britain, covered by an ice sheet. The glaciers reached the Great Lakes in North America.[2] Sea levels fell and two land bridges were temporarily in existence that had significance for human migration: Doggerland, which connected Great Britain to mainland Europe; and the Bering land bridge which joined Alaska to Siberia.[8][9]

The Last Ice Age was followed by the Late Glacial Interstadial, a period of global warming to 12.9 ka, and the Younger Dryas, a return to glacial conditions until 11.7 ka. Palaeoclimatology holds that there was a sequence of stadials and interstadials from about 16 ka until the end of the Pleistocene. These were the Oldest Dryas (stadial), the Bølling oscillation (interstadial), the Older Dryas (stadial), the Allerød oscillation (interstadial) and finally the Younger Dryas.[10]

The end of the Younger Dryas marks the boundary between the Pleistocene and Holocene Epochs. Man in all parts of the world was still culturally and technologically in the Palaeolithic (Old Stone) Age. Tools and weapons were basic stone or wooden implements. Nomadic tribes followed moving herds. Non-nomadics acquired their food by gathering and hunting.[11]

Africa edit

In Egypt, the Late (or Upper) Palaeolithic began sometime after 30,000 BC. People in North Africa had relocated to the Nile Valley as the Sahara was transformed from grassland to desert.[12] The Nazlet Khater skeleton was found in 1980 and has been radiocarbon dated to between 30,360 and 35,100 years ago.[13][14]

Eurasia edit

Neanderthal hominins (Homo neanderthalensis) inhabited Eurasia until becoming extinct between 40 and 30 ka.[11][15] Towards the end of the Pleistocene and possibly into the early Holocene, several large mammalian species including the woolly rhinoceros, mammoth, mastodon and Irish elk became extinct.[15]

Cave paintings have been found at Lascaux in the Dordogne which may be more than 17,000 years old. These are mainly of buffalo, deer and other animals hunted by man. Later paintings occur in caves throughout the world with further examples at Altamira (Spain) and in India, Australia and the Sahara.[15][16][better source needed][17][better source needed]

Magdalenian hunter-gatherers were widespread in western Europe about 18,000 years ago until the end of the Pleistocene. They invented the earliest known harpoons using reindeer horn.[18][better source needed]

The only domesticated animal in the Pleistocene was the dog, which evolved from the grey wolf into its many modern breeds. It is believed that the grey wolf became associated with hunter-gatherer tribes around 15 ka.[19] The earliest remains of a true domestic dog have been dated to 14,200 years ago.[20] Domestication first happened in Eurasia but could have been anywhere from Western Europe to East Asia.[21] Domestication of other animals such as cattle, goats, pigs and sheep did not begin until the Holocene when settled farming communities became established in the Near East.[19] The cat was probably not domesticated before c. 7500 BC at the earliest, again in the Near East.[22]

A butchered brown bear patella found in Alice and Gwendoline Cave in County Clare and dated to 10,860 to 10,641 BC indicates the first known human activity in Ireland.[23]

Far East edit

The very first human habitation in the Japanese archipelago has been traced to prehistoric times between 40,000 BC and 30,000 BC. The earliest fossils are radiocarbon dated to c. 35,000 BC. Japan was once linked to the Asian mainland by land bridges via Hokkaido and Sakhalin Island to the north, but was unconnected at this time when the main islands of Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu and Shikoku were all separate entities.[24]

North America edit

Bison occidentalis skull at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

From about 28 ka, there were migrations across the Bering land bridge from Siberia to Alaska. The people became the Native Americans. It is believed that the original tribes subsequently moved down to Central and South America under pressure from later migrations.[9][15]

In the North American land mammal age scale, the Rancholabrean spans the time from c. 240,000 years ago to c. 11,000 years ago. It is named after the Rancho La Brea fossil site in California, characterised by extinct forms of bison in association with other Pleistocene species such as the mammoth.[25][26][27]

Bison occidentalis and Bison antiquus, an extinct subspecies of the smaller present-day bison, survived the late Pleistocene period, between about 12 and 11 ka ago. Clovis peoples depended on these bison as their major food source. Earlier kills of camels, horses, and muskoxen found at Wally's beach were dated to 13.1–13.3 ka B.P.[28]

South America edit

The South American land mammal age Lujanian corresponds with the late Pleistocene.

Oceania edit

There is evidence of human habitation in mainland Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and Tasmania from c. 45,000 BC. The finds include rock engravings, stone tools and evidence of cave habitation.[29]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Cohen, K. M.; Finney, S. C.; Gibbard, P. L.; Fan, J.-X. (January 2020). "International Chronostratigraphic Chart" (PDF). International Commission on Stratigraphy. Retrieved 23 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c Mike Walker; et al. (December 2018). "Formal ratification of the subdivision of the Holocene Series/Epoch (Quaternary System/Period)" (PDF). Episodes. Subcommission on Quaternary Stratigraphy (SQS). 41 (4): 213–223. doi:10.18814/epiiugs/2018/018016. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  3. ^ Walker, Mike; Head, Martin J.; Berkelhammer, Max; Björck, Svante; Cheng, Hai; Cwynar, Les; Fisher, David; Gkinis, Vasilios; Long, Anthony; Lowe, John; Newnham, Rewi; Rasmussen, Sune Olander; Weiss, Harvey (1 December 2018). "Formal ratification of the subdivision of the Holocene Series/ Epoch (Quaternary System/Period): two new Global Boundary Stratotype Sections and Points (GSSPs) and three new stages/subseries" (PDF). Episodes. 41 (4): 213–223. doi:10.18814/epiiugs/2018/018016. Retrieved 28 August 2020.
  4. ^ Head, Martin J. (17 May 2019). "Formal subdivision of the Quaternary System/Period: Present status and future directions". Quaternary International. 500: 32–51. Bibcode:2019QuInt.500...32H. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2019.05.018.
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  9. ^ a b Winter, Barbara. "Bering Land Bridge". SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  10. ^ Carlson, A. E. (2013). "The Younger Dryas Climate Event" (PDF). Encyclopaedia of Quaternary Science. Vol. 3. Elsevier. pp. 126–134.
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  15. ^ a b c d Teeple 2002, pp. 12–13.
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  18. ^ "History of the Magdalenian". The Magdalenian. Les Eyzies. 2019. Archived from the original on 18 January 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  19. ^ a b Evan K. Irving-Pease; et al. (2018). "Palaeogenomics of Animal Domestication". In Lindqvist, C.; Rajora, O. (eds.). Palaeogenomics. Population Genomics. Springer, Cham. pp. 225–272. doi:10.1007/13836_2018_55. ISBN 978-3-030-04752-8.
  20. ^ Olaf Thalmann; Angela R. Perri (2018). "Palaeogenomic Inferences of Dog Domestication". In Lindqvist, C.; Rajora, O. (eds.). Palaeogenomics. Population Genomics. Springer, Cham. pp. 273–306. doi:10.1007/13836_2018_27. ISBN 978-3-030-04752-8.
  21. ^ David E. Machugh; et al. (2016). "Taming the Past: Ancient DNA and the Study of Animal Domestication". Annual Review of Animal Biosciences. 5: 329–351. doi:10.1146/annurev-animal-022516-022747. PMID 27813680.
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Bibliography edit

Further reading edit

  • Ehlers, J., and P.L. Gibbard, 2004a, Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 2: Part II North America. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-51462-7
  • Ehlers, J., and P L. Gibbard, 2004b, Quaternary Glaciations: Extent and Chronology 3: Part III: South America, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica. ISBN 0-444-51593-3
  • Frison, George C., Prehistoric Human and Bison Relationships on the Plains of North America, August 2000, International Bison Conference, Edmonton, Alberta.
  • Gillespie, A. R., S. C. Porter, and B. F. Atwater, 2004, The Quaternary Period in the United States. Developments in Quaternary Science no. 1. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 978-0-444-51471-4
  • Mangerud, J., J. Ehlers, and P. Gibbard, 2004, Quaternary Glaciations : Extent and Chronology 1: Part I Europe. Elsevier, Amsterdam. ISBN 0-444-51462-7
  • Sibrava, V., Bowen, D. Q., and Richmond, G. M., 1986, Quaternary Glaciations in the Northern Hemisphere, Quaternary Science Reviews. vol. 5, pp. 1–514.