Stone Age Folk in Asia Adapted to Extremes

By Bower, B. | Science News, July 7, 2001 | Go to article overview

Stone Age Folk in Asia Adapted to Extremes


Bower, B., Science News


The Chang Tang Nature Reserve, situated 12,000 feet above sea level in the north western part of China's Tibetan Plateau, features bitter cold, sparse vegetation, cutting winds, and little water. Scientists have now obtained preliminary evidence that people nonetheless colonized this forbidding territory near the end of the Stone Age.

The discovery of stone tools and spear points, as well as the remains of temporary camps dated to between 12,000 and 11,000 years ago, indicates that late-Stone Age groups adapted to some of the planet's harshest environments, says archaeologist P. Jeffrey Brantingham of the Santa Fe (N.M.) Institute.

"We've probably underestimated the diversity of hunter-gatherer adaptations to extreme environments during the late Stone Age," Brantingham remarks. He and his colleagues, John W. Olsen of the University of Arizona in Tucson and George B. Schaller of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City, describe their new findings in the June ANTIQUITY.

Ecological field surveys, which Schaller directed in the mid-1990s in the Chang Tang Reserve, yielded nearly 400 stone artifacts. Surveyors found the implements lying on the ground at 18 widely separated locations, most in the reserve's eastern section.

The finds include a variety of sharpened blades and spear points, ranging from about three-fourths of an inch to 3 inches long. Investigators also found round stones from which blades and other implements had been pounded off. …

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