December 04, 2018

Out of the Ice: How Climate Change is Revealing the Past

Written by Claire Eamer
Illustrated by Drew Shannon
Kids Can Press
32 pp.
Ages 8-12
September 2018

In another life, I did research on the historical record trapped in peatlands in Alberta. Most people would be fascinated to learn that deep within the plant material there are records of volcanic eruptions from thousands of years ago, deforestation and agriculture in the surrounding areas, and more.  Claire Eamer, prolific writer of non-fiction including Inside Your Insides: A Guide to the Microbes That Call You Home (Kids Can Press, 2016) and What a Waste! Where Does Garbage Go? (Annick Press, 2017), brings similar information from the past as it is trapped in frozen water from glaciers, permafrost, and more, now being revealed with the global warming of the Earth's air, ground and water.

Starting with explanations about global warming and how the Earth acts as a greenhouse, Claire Eamer then focuses on specific circumstances under which clues from the past become revealed. There is the 4300 year old stick with a bit of feather and sinew found in ice patches in the Yukon alongside 2400 year old caribou dung, revealing the first organic evidence of the hunting atlatl, a stick used to throw darts. There are more archaeological clues from Norway, spurred on by the Yukon finds, of large groups of people using scaring sticks to funnel herds of reindeer for easy hunting. In 1999, the mummified body of Kwädąy Dän Ts'ìnchį, meaning "long-ago person found", was discovered at the edge of a melting glacier in BC, providing evidence of his age, food eaten, and clothing worn, as well as his ancestry through DNA. The famous Iceman, Ötzi, found in the Ötztal Alps in 1991, is also discussed, as are the Scythians in the permafrost of the Altai Mountains of Asia, the Incan children of Llullaillaco, sacrificed to the gods and buried high in the Andes, and the cave-lion cubs and mammoths discovered in Siberia and Russia.

From Out of the Ice: How Climate Change is Revealing the Past by Claire Eamer, illus. by Drew Shannon

 All these discoveries further our understanding of the people and animals who inhabited these areas, hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of years ago. With contemporary testing and advances, like radiocarbon dating, and biochemical and DNA analyses, more and more can be learned about them and their world, which Claire Eamer recognizes is our world too.

 "The past is us." (pg. 29)
Drew Shannon, a Toronto illustrator, provides realistic depictions of how these people and animals might have lived, giving context to the circumstances of the artifacts and bodies recovered. A photograph for each story is usually provided but Drew Shannon's illustrations help the reader see beyond the science and into the lives of those left behind and now being exposed. Coupled with information boxes, a glossary, a timeline and references for further study, Out of the Ice: How Climate Change is Revealing the Past becomes a well-organized and informative read that still draws the reader in with its compelling stories of lives lived before, useful for teaching the science of climate change or history and archaeology.
From Out of the Ice: How Climate Change is Revealing the Past by Claire Eamer, illus. by Drew Shannon

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