New dating indicates intermittent human occupation of the Nwya Devu Paleolithic site on the high-altitude central Tibetan Plateau during the past 45,000 years

Junyi Ge, Xiaoling Zhang, Shejiang Wang, Linhui Li, Wei He, Yingshuai Jin, Peiqi Zhang, Bing Xu, Chenglong Deng, John W. Olsen, Zhengtang Guo, Xing Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The timing and mechanisms of the human occupation of the demanding high-altitude Tibetan Plateau environment are of great interest. Here, we report on our reinvestigations and dating of the Nwya Devu site, located nearly 4600 meters above sea level on the central Tibetan Plateau. A new microblade techno-complex was identified on a lower lake shore at this site, distinct from the previously reported blade tool assemblage. These two lithic assemblages were dated to 45.6±2.6 and 10.3±0.5 ka using optically stimulated luminescence and accelerator mass spectrometry 14C methods. They represent, respectively, the earliest known Paleolithic and microlithic sites on the interior Tibetan Plateau, indicating multiple occupation episodes of hunter-gatherers during the past 45 ka. Our studies reveal that relatively stable depositional conditions and a paleoenvironment characterized by a comparatively warm climate facilitated these multiple occupations at Nwya Devu. The contemporaneous occurrence of the Upper Paleolithic blade technology on the Tibetan Plateau and most of Eurasia between 50 and 40 ka indicates rapid, large-scale dispersals of humans that profoundly affected human demography on a large scale. Combining new archaeological evidence and previously reported genetic data, we conclude that the Tibetan Plateau provided a relatively stable habitat for Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, which may have contributed to the complex and multiple-origin gene pool of present-day Tibetans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)531-551
Number of pages21
JournalScience China Earth Sciences
Volume67
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2024

Keywords

  • AMS C dating
  • Early Upper Paleolithic
  • High-altitude adaptation
  • Microblade industry
  • Nwya Devu
  • OSL dating
  • Paleolithic
  • Tibet

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences

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