Zhokhov Island in the Siberian High Arctic today exhibits inhospitably severe climate conditions, desolate tundra, and year-round pack ice in the surrounding sea. During the Early Holocene this same island was warm enough to host waterfowl species, birch trees, and year-round human residents who hunted polar bear and reindeer.
Image Source: Makeyev et al., 2003
I. Zhokhov Island Today: A Frozen Wasteland
The Siberian High Arctic’s Zhokhov Island is today covered in barren tundra. There are no trees or waterfowl.
Even though today’s CO2 concentrations have eclipsed 410 ppm, Zhokhov’s summer temperatures may reach just 1° or 2° C above freezing during its warmest month (July).
The island is surrounded by a sea of pack ice year-round, even in summer.
II. Zhokhov Island Early Holocene: Warm, Teeming With Life
During the Early Holocene, Zhokhov Island was open-seas accessible.
It was teeming with waterfowl species that require 100+ days above freezing to breed successfully. Non-freezing days may reach only 60 per year today (Makeyev et al., 2003).
Zhokhov Island’s terrain was overlain with birch trees. The northern limit for birch is today 600 km farther south (Makeyev et al., 2003).
The island’s human inhabitants hunted polar bear and reindeer with blades made of raw materials (obsidian) gleaned from long-distance regional trading networks (Pitulko et al., 2019).
Zhokhov was at least 5 to 6°C warmer than today between 10,000 and 9000 years ago (Makeyev et al., 2003), or when CO2 concentrations hovered around 260 ppm.
III. The Early Holocene Arctic Was 4-7°C Warmer Than Today
Other recently published evidence also affirms that the climate of the Arctic was 4 to 7°C warmer than today about 9000 years ago (McFarlin et al., 2018, Mangerud and Svendsen, 2018).
Image Source: McFarlin et al., 2018
Image Source: Mangerud and Svendsen, 2018
IV. Modern Arctic Temperatures Haven’t Risen In 80 Years
In contrast, modern Arctic temperatures are no warmer today than they were in the 1930s.
Image Source: Hanhijärvi et al., 2013
Greenland was actually much warmer during the 1920s and 1930s than in recent decades.
Image Source: Box et al., 2009
None of this climatic evidence supports the popularized contention that the Arctic climate is significantly affected by either the atmospheric CO2 concentration or the rise in human emissions.
V. New Paper: Zhokhov Residents Were Long-Distance Traders
Artifacts recovered from an archaeological site on Zhokhov Island indicate that the human populations that lived there between about 8250 and 7800 years ago hunted polar bear in the winter and reindeer year-round. They used dogsled technology and the blades they used were made of obsidian, or volcanic glass.
To procure obsidian, the authors suggest that the people of Zhokhov necessarily needed to travel extensively to trade with those on the Siberian mainland. The travel distances for the Siberian trade were suggested to reach many hundreds of kilometers.
‘They came from the ends of the earth’:
long-distance exchange of obsidian in the
High Arctic during the Early Holocene
“Our data show that from c. 10 600 BP, Zhokhov Island was situated on the margin of the shrinking Arctic coast (Anisimov et al. 2009); this is supported by the presence of a large quantity of driftwood that washed ashore at the Zhokhov site. The environmental situation was relatively favourable for human occupation: the climate was warmer than today, and Zhokhov Island was covered by an Arctic tundra comprising sedge grass, shrubs and dwarf birch (Makeyev et al. 2003).”
Image Source: Pitulko et al., 2019
“The inhabitants of the Zhokhov site clearly visited today’s Arctic mainland during the Early Holocene. It is possible that some types of ‘trade hub’ existed in the Siberian Arctic for the exchange of valuable resources, such as stone raw materials, furs and other items.”
“The existence of the Ostrovnoye (or Ostrownoje) fair in the Malyy Anyuy River valley during the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries AD is noteworthy (von Wrangell 1840). This was a large-scale (by regional standards) event, in which both indigenous people and Russian merchants took part (Vakhtin et al. 2004). According to observations by Russian explorers (see von Wrangell 1840: 114–28), native inhabitants from across north-eastern Siberia gathered here for trade in the early spring, coming from as far as Srednekolymsk in the Kolyma River basin, Gizhiga on the northern shore of the Sea of Okhotsk and Markovo in the Anadyr River basin of Chukotka (Figure 7). The distance between these localities is approximately 450–600 km in a direct line, and the area covered between them is around 1 200 000 km2. Contemporaneous fairs of secondary importance existed near the mouth of the Kolyma River, and in the Anadyr River basin, near the modern town of Markovo (Vakhtin et al. 2004).”
“Although this analogy for long-distance travel and exchange is remote in time, it can be used, with certain reservations, for dog-sled technology, the environment and phenology have remained largely the same in the East Siberian Arctic regions for millennia, regardless of developments such as the introduction of metals, pottery or other innovations. Dog-sled technology undoubtedly played an important part in raw materials exchange networks, as evidenced by the presence of Chukotkan obsidian at the Zhokhov site. Although virtually no obsidian has been found in the Early Holocene archaeological record between the Zhokhov site and Chukotka, a connection between these two areas clearly existed by c. 8000 BP. This region in between them, however, is largely unexplored archaeologically (see Pitulko & Pavlova 2016).”
Image Source: Pitulko et al., 2019 and Makeyev et al., 2003