A history of Ukraine. Episode 2. The Ice Age

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Ice and Ukraine. Kiev reporter. News from Ukraine

Episode 1 here

The great glaciation of the Northern Hemisphere began 1 million years ago, reaching a peak from the 150th to the 100th millennium BC. Lower temperatures caused a glacier up to several kilometers thick to spread out from Scandinavia and cover much of Europe. In those days, most of the territory of Ukraine was periglacial — it was traversed by herds of mammoths, reindeer, buffalo etc., as well as by primitive hunters. In certain periods, the glacier reached down the valley of the Dnipro to the territory of what is now the city of Kremenchuh. Winds blowing from the glacier toward periglacial plains picked up dust and carried it south, thus forming the fertile Ukrainian soil. The peak of the cooling occurred in the period from the 18th to the 16th millennium BC.

At the time of the Ice Age, glaciers locked up huge volumes of water, causing the sea level to be 130 meters lower than it is today. The Sea of Azov and the Gulf of Odesa did not exist back then, while the Black Sea was an inland freshwater lake.

In the 12th and the 11th millennia BC, mammoths became extinct in the territory of Ukraine, probably due to the glacier’s sudden melting and retreat. Winters brought more snow, and mammoths were not able to find enough grass in winter. Woolly rhinoceroses, musk oxen and other animals disappeared. Researchers believe that their thick fur became wet during thaws and later froze, causing animals to die. On the contrary, reindeer, buffalo, elk, aurochs, horses and other species multiplied. People hunted them, often forcing herds into a ravine or coastal precipice, just like American Indians hunted buffalo until the 19th century.

Ukraine’s land is rich in game birds, and deep rivers contributed to a better life for human communities, their communication and the exchange of experience. At this time, culturally distinct big tribes began to emerge in Ukraine.

Dwelling constructed of mammoth bones, Mezhyrich site, ca. 15,000 years ago
Dwelling constructed of mammoth bones, Mezhyrich site, ca. 15,000 years ago

When the glacier began to melt, a gigantic lake was formed in the north of Ukraine and Belarus. It eventually burst out, generating a mudflow that rushed down the Dnipro valley to the sea circa 11,500 BC.

Around 5,600 BC, due to rising sea levels, the Mediterranean Sea spilled over into the Black Sea as a giant salty waterfall and dug out the Bosporus. The water level in the Black Sea rose by 100 meters within 2-3 years, and this sea acquired its familiar shape. The death of freshwater creatures in the Black Sea led to the contamination of its deep water with hydrogen sulfide, which persists until today.

Boundaries of the Black Sea before and after water from the Mediterranean Sea spilled over
Boundaries of the Black Sea before and after water from the Mediterranean Sea spilled over

People fled from the sea which devoured several hundred meters or even several kilometers of land per day. This disaster contributed to the denser settlement of Central Ukraine.

Some believe that the flooding of huge swaths of land by the Black Sea in ancient times gave rise to ideas about the Great Flood. However, stories about a big flood are found in peoples that are too remote from this region.

A history of Ukraine. Episode 2. The Ice Age
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