Living High


October 23, 2014

Human residence at high altitude for prolonged periods is confirmed in a Podcast issued by the journal Science this week. Listen to the podcast and review a companion story published on this website a few months ago.

The abstracvt of the Science paper reads,

"Study of human adaptation to extreme environments is important for understanding our cultural and genetic capacity for survival. The Pucuncho Basin in the southern Peruvian Andes contains the highest-altitude Pleistocene archaeological sites yet identified in the world, about 900 meters above confidently dated contemporary sites. The Pucuncho workshop site [4355 meters above sea level (masl)] includes two fishtail projectile points, which date to about 12.8 to 11.5 thousand years ago (ka). Cuncaicha rock shelter (4480 masl) has a robust, well-preserved, and well-dated occupation sequence spanning the past 12.4 thousand years (ky), with 21 dates older than 11.5 ka. Our results demonstrate that despite cold temperatures and low-oxygen conditions, hunter-gatherers colonized extreme high-altitude Andean environments in the Terminal Pleistocene, within about 2 ky of the initial entry of humans to South America."

Monte Verde, near Puerto Montt in southern Chile, has been dated reliably to 14,000 years ago. This paper indicates humans were living for prolonged periods in the Peruvian Andes, at altitudes of 13-14,000 feet within a few millenia of the oldest reported human settlement on the South American continent.

In an NEWS article published last August on this website, entitled

Ancient Denisovan genes enable modern Tibetan to

handle high altitude

we learneda Denisovan adaptationis related to ability of contemporary Tibetans to reside comfortably at high altitudes. To date there does not exist human genetic material from the Peruvian Andes to be comparewd with the contemporary Tibetan genome.