A Pleistocene Alphabet

Columbian Mammoth

Woolly Mammoth

Prehistory offers up a lot of interesting creatures.

You might wonder why I mention this… because the past offers us some very practical examples of life forms that can be harvested for our idea files. Seriously. If you write science fiction, alternate history, horror, fantasy, etc. there are endless opportunities imbedded in the fossil record that might be worth a glimpse. You can sort and choose using just about any criteria, but selecting a specific period or geologic epic is the way I roll.

Glyptodon

Glyptodon asper – think half armadillo, half VW bug

The Pleistocene rocked. It’s when all the cool stuff happened, like monstrously big beasties, epic glaciations, and multiple species of hominids running amok. Yep, those were the good old days. The Pleistocene gets broken into Early, Late, and Middle periods, covering a lot of ground and time. The Middle Paleolithic, as it’s also called – just to confuse things –  is when ancient human ancestors started doing remarkable stuff like playing with fire and demonstrating social unity. The end of the era –  also called the Upper Paleolithic for more hijinks – is when the world went crazy. There were sudden climactic shifts, mass extinctions, environmental degradation, species change, exodus to new lands… sound familiar?

Click a link and explore the Pleistocene:

A is for Arctodus, the Short-faced Bear
B is for the Bukit Jawa site
C is for Castoroides, the Giant Beaver
D is for Diprotodon, the Giant Wombat
E is for Erectus, Homo
F is for Floresiensis, Homo
G is for Glyptodon, the Giant Armadillo
H is for Hominin Species during the Pleistocene
I is for Isampur Hand Axe
J is for the Jebel Irhoud site
K is for Klasies River Caves site
L is for the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles
M is for Megaloceros, the Irish Elk
N is for Neanderthalensis, Homo
O is for Oldowan Stone Tools
P is for Panthera, the Cave Lion
Q is for the Quaternary Era
R is for Rhinoceros, of the woolly type
S is for Smilodon, the Saber-Toothed Tiger
T is for Tarpan, the Early Horse
U is for Ursus, the Cave Bear
V is for Venus Figurines
W is for Woolly Mammoths, Mammuthus
X is for Xenosmilus, the Spotted Cat
Y is for the Yudinovo site
Z is for the Zhoukoudian site

 

Interested in some more information?

Bunches of books have been written about the ancient world and the organisms which inhabited pretty much every environmental zone. All are not created equal. While I’m often amused by claims that aliens built it all, I refuse to rob the ancients of their achievements and accomplishments by suggesting such nonsense. These people survived the harshest landscapes on the planet, carved out a niche in a world ruled by megafauna, and owned it – and they did it all on their own attributes. Check out the following books for in-depth details:

Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth 
The Pleistocene Boundary and the Beginning of the Quaternary
Megafauna: Giant Beasts of Pleistocene South America

mammoth skeletonSo, there’s my collection of Pleistocene-era animals and people (big and small) that should excite receptors in your brainpan and get that next cross-genre story percolating in the grey matter. Inspiration comes from odd and unusual places, right? Maybe you found something that sparked an idea or filled a void. If nothing else, you got a look at some nifty cool critters.

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  1. #1 by shannonagains on August 29, 2013 - 4:07 am

    I love the idea of giant beavers, wombats and armadillos. They’d probably be terrifying to meet in person though – not as cuddly as they sound, I’m guessing.

    • #2 by Lesann Berry on August 29, 2013 - 9:18 am

      I’m particularly fond of the giant armadillo. Coming in at the scale of a VW Bug, can’t you just see one waddling alongside the highway? That would change up their roadkill status in southern states and make for far more exciting drives.

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