These termite mounds, even older than the woolly mammoth, are 34,000 years old.

These termite mounds, even older than the woolly mammoth, are 34,000 years old.
These termite mounds, even older than the woolly mammoth, are 34,000 years old.

Colorful wildflowers litter the landscapes of South Africa. These finding more nutrients than in the surrounding soils which cover the oldest termite mounds in the world, they have taken up residence on these lands.

Termite mounds older than mammoths

Called “heuweltjies” in Afrikaans, termite mounds are small hills that house southern harvester termites. These are most visible during spring when the colorful flowers grow along the Buffels River in Namaqualand, this surface being richer in nutrients.

Doctor and lecturer in the Soil Sciences research department at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Stellenbosch, Michele Francis, is the author of a study which reveals that a “Recent radiocarbon dating has revealed that these mounds are far older than any previously known, with some dating back 34,000 years.“.

He adds that these termites are “ older than Europe’s iconic cave paintings and even older than the Last Glacial Maximum, when vast ice sheets covered much of the northern hemisphere ”.

Termite mounds from before the Ice Age

Carbon-14 dating reveals that the organic carbon contained in the termites dates back between 13,000 and 19,000 years. While these termites date back 34,000 years.

Francis explains that these termite mounds were already in existence when woolly mammoths were on Earth. Or during the last glacial maximum (period during which the cold reached its maximum extent, at the end of the last ice age) around 20,000 years ago in North America, Europe and Asia.

A study that reveals the weather of the time

This study concluded that the region experienced significantly more precipitation at the time of their formation, which then introduced minerals like calcite and gypsum into the groundwater.

These ancient termite mounds provide important information that tells us about the climate of the past and how we can mitigate climate change in the future. “ The discovery of these mounds is like being able to read an ancient manuscript that changes everything we thought we knew about history” “ explains Francis.

Sources: Iflscience, Science of The Total Environment.



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