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Africa:Some 74,000 Years Ago, Mount Toba Exploded. Our Ancestors Survived a Long, Volcanic Winter

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The Mount Toba catastrophe is one of the world’s most notorious: it caused a six- to 10-year volcanic winter and a 1,000-year cooling period, and has been blamed for the near-extinction of humans. A new study finds that at least one population of humans survived on the coast of South Africa. By MARELISE VAN DER MERWE.

South Africans worried about prolonged drought may take heart: our ancestors, at least, were made of sterner stuff than one might expect when it came to surviving unforgiving climates.

In a new paper published in the journal Nature, scientists argue that in the years following the eruption of super-volcano Mount Toba in Indonesia, around 74,000 years ago, early modern humans on the south coast of South Africa were the unlikely survivors of extremely frigid conditions.

Mount Toba is known as one of the world’s greatest super-eruptions which caused a six- to 10-year winter and an approximately 1,000-year cooling period on Earth. Super-volcanoes can cause as much destruction as an asteroid more than a kilometre wide.

The Mount Toba catastrophe has previously been blamed for the near-extinction of humans, though this idea was dismissed by later studies that called the theory “simplistic”. The scientist who…

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