UMaine Grad Wins Prestigious Prize for Andes Ice Age Research

Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), January 28, 2014 | Go to article overview

UMaine Grad Wins Prestigious Prize for Andes Ice Age Research


A University of Maine alumnus and faculty associate in the Department of Anthropology recently won an international prize for his ice age research related to the first human settlement in the high Peruvian Andes.

Kurt Rademaker, who is also an associate graduate faculty member at UMaine's Climate Change Institute, won the T 1/4bingen Research Prize in Early Prehistory and Quaternary Ecology. The award is open to recent doctoral recipients around the world in in a variety of areas including archaeology, ecology and human evolution.

The goal of Rademaker's research is to better understand the timing, environmental setting and adaptations related to the early settlement.

"Human colonization of the Americas was the most rapid and extensive geographic expansion in our species' history, in which hunter-gatherers successfully settled some of the most challenging environments on Earth," he said.

Rademaker and his team discovered that humans lived at 14,700 feet elevation in southern Peru about 12,000 to12,500 years ago, making the Andes settlements the highest known ice-age archaeological sites in the world.

"The fact that hunter-gatherers were physiologically capable of living in high-altitude mountains at the end of an ice age is an example of how amazingly adaptable our species is," Rademaker said. "My team and I are trying to learn more about how people managed this initial settlement and how Andean environments, ecology and culture have changed since then."

Rademaker collaborates with researchers from throughout the United States, Canada, Peru, Chile and Germany.

"Many different skill sets are needed to do interdisciplinary work, and archaeology is labor-intensive, so this means building teams of people with varied specializations," he said.

Rademaker considers his work somewhat nontraditional because he uses an interdisciplinary systems approach that combines archaeology and other earth science techniques to investigate the long-term evolution of landscapes in which people play an important role.

Rademaker and his team can sometimes estimate the age of settlements by tools found at sites. Other times the researchers excavate areas in rockshelter sites used as camps, retrieve organic material such as animal bones that people discarded, and then radiocarbon date the bones to determine their approximate age. …

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UMaine Grad Wins Prestigious Prize for Andes Ice Age Research
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