Pioneering early people who lived at the end of the last ice age actually carried on with life as usual despite plummeting temperatures, a study by researchers at the Royal Holloway University of London at Egham Hill has revealed.

Leading researchers based at Royal Holloway working with the University of York found that a dramatic climate event with a sudden drop in average temperatures severe enough to halt the development of woodland, had no substantial impact on human activity at Star Carr – a middle Stone Age archaeological site dating to around 9,000 BC.

The study sheds new light on significant debate about the sensitivity of hunter-gatherer societies to environmental change.

The prehistoric community, who persevered through the cold snap that would last more than 100 years left a plethora of worked wood, animal bones, antler headdresses and flint blades buried in layers of mud as evidence of their continued productivity and endurance.

Simon Blockley, Professor of Quaternary Science at Royal Holloway, said: “It has been argued that abrupt climatic events may have caused a crash in Mesolithic populations in Northern Britain. But our study reveals that at least in the case of the pioneering colonisers at Star Carr, early communities were able to cope with extreme and persistent climate events.

“We found people were in fact far more affected by smaller, localised changes to their environment - Star Carr was once the site of an extensive lake and people lived around its edge.

“Over time the lake gradually became shallower and boggier, turning into fenland which eventually forced settlers to abandon the area.”