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More on Early Occupations in the Peruvian Andes

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By Laurie Milne in the group AU Anthropology Interest Group November 11, 2015 - 5:31pm

Several earlier blogs dealt with very early human occupation at high elevations in  the Rockies and Andes Mountains in North and South America, respectively. 

A new article entitled “Reaching New Heights in the Peruvian Andes” (Mammoth Trumpet Vol. 30 No. 4)  adds to this discussion.  Kurt Rademaker of the Department of Earth Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology at the University of Tübingen in Germany and Gordon Bromley of the School of Earth and Climate Sciences/Climate Change Institute at the University of Maine report that the site of Cuncaicha at 4,500 meters above sea level   in southern Peru appears to have been occupied within 2000 years of Monte Verde, the earliest accepted low-elevation site of South America. 

The authors note that the establishment of long-term occupations at such extreme altitudes just 2,000 years after entering South America raises questions about genetic adaptation:  Did these people possess a genetic adaptation that made it possible for them to flourish in such high altitudes?  Did adaptations occur before or after human settlement in such environments?

Rademaker hypothesizes that either genetic adaptation to high elevation evolved extremely rapidly, within 2,000 years or that genetic adaptation was not needed for the initial colonization of high elevations and developed later.    If the latter is the case then Rademaker  posits that genetic adaptations in modern Tibetan and Andean people may have arisen relatively recently.    Comparative studies of high altitude  human adaptations around the world are required to understand this aspect of human evolution. 


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AU Anthropology Interest Group

AU Anthropology Interest Group

A group for those interested in socio-cultural anthropology, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology