This is how humans lived in the harsh Kalahari Desert 20,000 years ago


There are 930,000 square kilometers of dry forests, savannas and salt lakes where the temperature can reach 45º centigrade and the dry season lasts for eight months. The Kalahari Desert – which extends to Botswana, Namibia and South Africa – receives average annual rainfall that ranges from only 110 mm (close to aridity) to 500 mm.

In the driest and sunniest parts of the Kalahari, an average of over 4,000 hours of sunshine is recorded per year (in the Iberian Peninsula, the sunshine level is 2,500 hours). During the summer, rains are not really a gift, as they can be accompanied by dangerous thunderstorms.

about 930,000 km2

The temperature of the desert reaches 45 degrees and the dry season is of 8 months.

Living in this place is a complicated task even today. And if not, ask some of the communities of Bushmen (Khoisanso) who reside in the area. They are about 50,000 brave, divided into 10 groups that are distributed over this vast area. The Tswano, an ethnic group widespread in southern Africa, know the desert as clumsyWhich means “great thirst”.

Researchers have believed for years that the Kalahari was a forbidden land for humans in ancient times. Its conditions were so inhospitable that prehistoric communities of Homo sapiens may have avoided stepping into that hostile territory. But a new study has thrown out everything that was believed until now.

Excavation at Ga-Mohana Hill

Griffith University

A team of archaeologists from Griffith University led by Dr. Jeanne Wilkins not only assured that humans already lived and survived in the Kalahari Desert more than 20,000 years ago, but also that they were able to take advantage of the harsh climatic conditions and managed to prosper.

Climate change is the factor that explains this story. “Our work shows that during some time in the past the desert was greener and much wetter than it is today,” Wilkins says. “20,000 years ago, there were people living in the Kalahari during a dry time, which gives us an idea of ​​how variation in the environment affected human evolution,” he says.

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The vast underground water reserves that are currently beneath the desert (such as the Dragon’s Breath Cave) would be a remnant of a time when this location was much more humid, the remains of ancient lakes such as Makgadikgadi that could have covered an expanse of 120,000 sq. kilometers but dried up (or dried up) about 10,000 years ago.

The investigation began in 2015 and its main study site is the Ga-Mohna Hill in southern Kalahari in South Africa. “This is a site that has spiritual significance for local communities,” explains Jeanne Wilkins, who is collaborating with a team from the University of Cape Town.

Satellite image of Kalahari Desert

Satellite image of Kalahari Desert


“We have analyzed deposits of Tosca stone (a very porous limestone rock) found in springs, springs or ponds. The water seeps out and releases calcium carbonate which we were able to drill through the rock and date. These dates tell us when it was wet in the past,” the expert says.

Archaeologists didn’t just focus on stones, they also discovered prehistoric tools and bone remains of food that may have been eaten by humans. However, the most important finds were calcite crystals, transparent cubes that have no functional value but were probably collected for sentimental or ritual reasons such as stamps.

sand dunes in the Kalahari desert

sand dunes in the Kalahari desert


“Our findings suggest that for Homo sapiens, it was not just about survival in the Kalahari Desert, but that ancient communities developed on the advanced knowledge, systems and technologies they needed to survive in those arid conditions. resources.” Wilkins concluded.

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