Archaeologists excavate a rockshelter in the Peruvian that was used more than 12,000 years ago by human settlers. Photo Kurt Rademaker


Excerpt from
news.discovery.com


The oldest-known evidence of living at extremely high altitudes has been unearthed in the Peruvian Andes, archaeologists say.

The — a rock shelter with traces of Ice Age campfires and rock art, and an open-air workshop with stone tools and fragments — are located nearly 14,700 (4,500 meters) above sea and were occupied roughly 12,000 years ago.

pucuncho-basin

The discovery, which is detailed (Oct. 23) in the journal Science, suggests ancient people in America were living at extremely high altitudes just 2,000 years after humans first reached the continent.

Pucuncho basin

The findings also raise questions about how these early settlers physically adapted to sky-high living.

cuncaicha rockshelter

“Either they genetically adapted really, really fast — within 2,000 years — to be able to settle this area, or genetic adaptation ’t necessary at all,” said lead author Kurt Rademaker, who was a University of Maine visiting assistant professor in anthropology when he conducted the

cuncaicha rockshelter in peru

High life
After years of searching around the plateau, the researchers found a rock shelter with two alcoves, ceilings blackened with soot and decorated with rock art. The site also showed evidence of burnt detritus from ancient people’s campsites. The rock shelter was used for thousands of years, starting around 12,400 years ago, and may have been a temporary base camp where herders sheltered from the , Rademaker said.

 stone tool found in cuncaicha rockshelter