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Deforestation in India: 73,000 years back


(Image from Journey of Man)

A new study reveals that the volcanic eruption of Mt. Toba in Sumatra, 74,000 years back, deforested Central India.

The volcano ejected an estimated 800 cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere, leaving a crater (now the world’s largest volcanic lake) that is 100 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. Ash from the event has been found in India, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea.

The bright ash reflected sunlight off the landscape, and volcanic sulfur aerosols impeded solar radiation for six years, initiating an “Instant Ice Age” that — according to evidence in ice cores taken in Greenland — lasted about 1,800 years. [Supervolcano Eruption In Sumatra Deforested India 73,000 Years Ago]

Temperature dropped by 16 degrees; there was an Ice Age; there was population reduction among the earliest arrivals in India from Africa. The deforestation in turn caused a behavior change in human beings.

But did it exterminate Indians or the entire humanity? According to a paper published two years back, we know that few people of Jwalapuram in Andhra Pradesh survived. Stone blades and other tools  as well red ochre used in cave paintings were found both above and below the ash layer indicating that whoever lived at that time survived and there was technological continuity. Following Mt. Toba the Indian subcontinent was repopulated again by new migrants from the North-West as well as from the North East.

See Also: Environmental Impact of the 73 ka Toba Super-eruption in South Asia

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2 Responses to Deforestation in India: 73,000 years back

  1. Kedar November 30, 2009 at 1:23 am #

    Excellent! Very very interesting news indeed. I wonder if this event has been preserved in tribal records as some mythological story…

    • jk December 1, 2009 at 8:07 am #

      Kedar, if there are traces of it in tribal records, it would be truly fascinating. But look how far back in time this happened, even before the development of language.

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