Ice Age Humans Lived Life to the Extreme
Ice Age humans apparently lived life to the extreme, at least, in terms of where they lived. Newly discovered stone tools revealed an ancient settlement very high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, a new study says, showing people's capacity for withstanding intense conditions.
Located over 14,000 feet above sea level, where the air was thin, the nights were cold and the Sun easily blistered your skin, small groups of hunter-gatherers found a home. (Scroll to read on...)
It was here, high in the Peruvian Andes, today known as the Pucuncho Basin, that researchers found an ancient campsite with workshops for making stone tools, including scrapers used to make clothing from hides and sharpened points most likely used for spears. Radiocarbon dating of charcoal and animal bones also found at the site indicate that the Paleo-Indian hunters had been using the area as a base camp as early as 12,800 years ago - nearly 1,000 years earlier than any other known inhabitants living that high up.
"These are some of the highest known examples of human occupation," anthropologist Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University told National Geographic. "But it is not a great surprise, because we find people expanded widely wherever we look across South America."
Given the fact that the rainy season lasted from December to March, researchers doubt that these people were living there year round.
"You're cold," researcher Kurt Rademaker told The Associated Press (AP). "You're being rained on and snowed on and sleeted on all day long. It makes for misery."
It's popular belief among scientists that the ability to live at such high altitudes, however miserable, all depends on genetic adaptation. For instance, the Andean people of today have a higher metabolic rate, larger lung capacity and higher hemoglobin concentrations than the average person, all of which allow them to overcome a lack of oxygen.
"Was this adaptation present 12,400 years ago? We don't know for certain," archaeologist and co-author archaeologist Sonia Zarrillo said in a statement. "What we're demonstrating is that these people either already developed that adaptation, or, it was possible for them to live in these altitudes for extended periods of time regardless. Finding this out is one of the goals of our future research."
The findings were published in the journal Science.