Ancient Humans May Have Survived Supervolcano Eruption Nearly 74,000 Years Ago

by Theresa Machemer/

About 74,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption rocked in Indonesia. For a long time, experts thought that the ash from the eruption of Mount Toba threw the Earth into a “volcanic winter” that threatened the survival of the human species. Researchers estimate that the blast was about 5,000 times larger than Mount St. Helen’s in the 1980s.

It might sound apocalyptic, but new evidence found in north-central India, which would have been coated in Toba’s ash, suggests that the volcano’s effects have been overstated—and ancient hominids were resilient enough to adapt and survive.

The research, published Wednesday in Nature Communications, looks at a progression of stone tools from between 25,000 to 80,000 years ago found in Middle Son Valley near Dhaba. The work builds on research done in 2007 at a different archaeological site in southern India, where some of the same archaeologists also found stone tools from before and after the eruption.

“The big theory out there was that the Toba supereruption created a volcanic winter, so it led to glaciation, it re-sculpted ecosystems, [and] it had tremendous impacts on the atmosphere and landscapes,” Max Planck Institute anthropologist Michael Petraglia tells Lorraine Boissoneault at National Geographic. But the Dhaba site…


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  1. I think this eruption corresponds to a bottleneck in human genetic diversity as found in mitochondrial DNA. Human population may have shrunk to about 10000 humans after that eruption.

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