Signs of high-altitude human dwelling max 47,000 yrs + Maya more warlike than thought

#1
Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of an Ancient High-Altitude Human Dwelling
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-new...180972878/

INTRO: Life in high-altitude mountains can be rough. Resources are scarce, the weather can be extreme and oxygen levels hover at dangerously low levels. Archaeologists have thus assumed that towering mountains and plateaus were among the last places to be populated by ancient humans. But a new study suggests that this assumption could be wrong.

Published in the journal Science, the research details a remarkable discovery in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains at a site located more than 11,000 feet above sea level. There, a team of experts unearthed a trove of artifacts—among them stone tools, clay fragments, burnt animal bones and a glass bead—indicating that people had lived there as early as 47,000 years ago. These finds, according to the study, represent “the earliest evidence of a prehistoric high-altitude [human] residential site.”

For decades, paleoanthropologists working in east Africa have been concentrating their attention on lower-altitude locations. “We were simply the first to go higher,” Götz Ossendorf, an archaeologist at the University of Cologne and lead author of the new study, tells Carl Zimmer of the New York Times. But reaching Fincha Habera, as the site of the new discovery is known, was no mean feat. The research team had to trek more than 700 miles on foot and by pack horse to get to the site.

The effort was worth it. At Fincha Havera—one of more than 300 elevated rock shelters that the researchers investigated—they quickly dug up signs of ancient human occupation. Crucial to their discovery were the remnants of hearths, which provided charcoal that could be dated to between 47,000 and 31,000 years ago, according to Zimmer. (MORE)



Maya more warlike than previously thought
https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/08/05/may...y-thought/

EXCERPT: The Maya of Central America are thought to have been a kinder, gentler civilization, especially compared to the Aztecs of Mexico. At the peak of Mayan culture some 1,500 years ago, warfare seemed ritualistic, designed to extort ransom for captive royalty or to subjugate rival dynasties, with limited impact on the surrounding population. Only later, archeologists thought, did increasing drought and climate change lead to total warfare — cities and dynasties were wiped off the map in so-called termination events — and the collapse of the lowland Maya civilization around 1,000 A.D. (or C.E., current era).

New evidence unearthed by a researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, and the U.S. Geological Survey calls all this into question, suggesting that the Maya engaged in scorched-earth military campaigns — a strategy that aims to destroy anything of use, including cropland — even at the height of their civilization, a time of prosperity and artistic sophistication.

The finding also indicates that this increase in warfare, possibly associated with climate change and resource scarcity, was not the cause of the disintegration of the lowland Maya civilization. “These data really challenge one of the dominant theories of the collapse of the Maya,” said David Wahl, a UC Berkeley adjunct assistant professor of geography and a researcher at the USGS in Menlo Park, California. “The findings overturn this idea that warfare really got intense only very late in the game.”

“The revolutionary part of this is that we see how similar Mayan warfare was from early on,” said archaeologist Francisco Estrada-Belli of Tulane University, Wahl’s colleague. “It wasn’t primarily the nobility challenging one another, taking and sacrificing captives to enhance the charisma of the captors. For the first time, we are seeing that this warfare had an impact on the general population.”

The evidence, reported ... in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, is an inch-thick layer of charcoal at the bottom of a lake, Laguna Ek’Naab, in Northern Guatemala: a sign of extensive burning of a nearby city, Witzna, and its surroundings that was unlike any other natural fire recorded in the lake’s sediment. [...] “What we see here is, it looks like they torched the entire city and, indeed, the entire watershed,” Wahl said. “Then, we see this really big decrease in human activity afterwards, which suggests at least that there was a big hit to the population. We can’t know if everyone was killed or they moved or if they simply migrated away, but what we can say is that human activity decreased very dramatically immediately after that event.”

This one instance does not prove that the Maya engaged in total warfare throughout the 650-year classic period, Estrada-Belli said, but it does fit with increasing evidence of warlike behavior throughout that period: mass burials, fortified cities and large standing armies. “We see destroyed cities and resettled people similar to what Rome did to Carthage or Mycenae to Troy,” Estrada-Belli said.

And if total warfare was already common at the peak of Mayan lowland civilization, then it is unlikely to have been the cause of the civilization’s collapse, the researchers argue. “I think, based on this evidence, the theory that a presumed shift to total warfare was a major factor in the collapse of Classic Maya society is no longer viable,” said Estrada-Belli. “We have to rethink the cause of the collapse, because we’re not on the right path with warfare and climate change.” (MORE - detailed elaboration)
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#2
Were these high-altitude paleolithic humans permanent residents of high-elevations, or just visitors?

I can imagine ancient bands crossing mountain ranges to get to the lowlands on the other side. Or hunting and gathering up there if the mountains were home to some valuable resource. Or even ascending mountains for religious reasons, to conduct rituals up at the top of the world.

The glass bead is interesting. Was it naturally occurring volcanic glass? If it was manufactured glass, then that would suggest that this site was much more recent than these archaeologists seem to think.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_beadmaking
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#3
(Aug 12, 2019 05:04 PM)Yazata Wrote: Were these high-altitude paleolithic humans permanent residents of high-elevations, or just visitors?

I can imagine ancient bands crossing mountain ranges to get to the lowlands on the other side. Or hunting and gathering up there if the mountains were home to some valuable resource. Or even ascending mountains for religious reasons, to conduct rituals up at the top of the world.


Apparently lacks the characteristics of brief stop and visit sites at high altitudes that have been documented, which includes at least one far older:

"Recent studies have revealed the presence of a Denisova hominin as early as 160 thousand years (ka) ago on the outer eastern slope of the Tibetan Plateau, and at 4600 m above sea level (masl), short-term stays for raw material procurement and artifact manufacturing have been dated to 30 to 40 ka ago. Here, we describe the world’s oldest occupation of a residential site at high elevation, which was repeatedly inhabited by humans who exploited a glaciated African ecosystem."

The idea is that local Middle Stone Age populations moved up into the Ethiopian highlands whenever the lowlands changed to harsh conditions:

"We suggest that the ecological stability of the humid African mountains provided refugia not only for plants and animals but also for humans during times when the lowland climates were arid."

Quote:The glass bead is interesting. Was it naturally occurring volcanic glass? If it was manufactured glass, then that would suggest that this site was much more recent than these archaeologists seem to think.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glass_beadmaking

According to the original paper, the glass bead came from the youngest deposits dating to the last 800 years:

"The cultural material only included eight undiagnostic obsidian artifacts, five pottery shards, and a single glass bead."

Whereas older or more primitive obsidian lithic artifacts (blades, scrapers, points) along with burnt bones of the giant mole-rats they ate were found in the Middle Stone Age levels:

"Eight dates from the lower deposits supported a Late Pleistocene occupation, bracketing the MSA settlement between 47 and 31 ka ago."

[...] "The prehistoric inhabitants of Fincha Habera rock shelter consumed the endemic Afro-alpine giant mole-rat (Tachyoryctes macrocephalus). The abundant faunal assemblage (of the MSA deposits consisted almost exclusively (93.5%) of this rodent. Roasting was the predominant method of preparation, as indicated by the high number of burnt bones and the location of the burn marks at the extremities, especially in the lowermost MSA deposits. No digestion or gnawing marks that would suggest consumption by hyenas could be identified on the rodent bones."
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