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Using Biomarkers from Prehistoric Human Feces

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Disentangling the effects of climate change from those related to human activities is a major challenge

The prehistoric settlers and their livestock pooped and their feces washed into Lake Liland in the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway. This left a record of trace amounts of specific molecules that are only produced in the intestines of higher mammals.

Taken together, the sediment cores, vegetation changes and fire records clearly define a pre-settlement period with no detectable human activity in the lake's water catchment area from about 7,300 to 2,250 years ago. At that point, however, changes in the background state appear in the record; likely indicates that as people moved in, they first cleared the land by burning before establishing a permanent settlement, the researchers say.

The record shows a lull in human activity from about 2,040 to 1,900 years ago, reflected in all markers. After this, the human and livestock populations steadily increased to a local maximum around the year 500, based on the fecal record, then fell again to a second minimum around the year 850. The climate scientists note a further decline in human activity and population to another minimum at about AD 1750 that coincided with the highest relative grassland cover for the entire 7,300-year history.

Source with greater details

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