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Humans Dwelt in Ice-Age Tibet

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 02/03/27; March 27, 2002.]

Footprints and a Fire Found From 20,000 Years Ago

PHILIP BALL
Nature, 27 March 2002

Handprints and footprints 20,000 years old reveal that people lived on the Tibetan plateau at the height of the Ice Age - 16,000 years earlier than scientists had thought. The newly found signs of life cast doubt on the idea that a glacier a kilometre thick covered the plateau at that time.

David Zhang and S. H. Li of the University of Hong Kong found the marks of at least six individuals, including two children, in marble-like rocks that were once soft mud on a mountain slope 85 kilometres from the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

They also found a fireplace nearby, with the remains of a primitive stove, suggesting that the site was a camp, perhaps even a settlement.

Until now, the oldest known settlements on the Tibetan plateau dated from late Neolithic times, around 4,000 years ago. This had led some researchers to conclude that humans first migrated into Tibet around this time.

The encampment is also a nail in the coffin for the ice-covered plateau hypothesis. It indicates that at least part of the plateau, which today is 4,000 metres high on average, was free of ice even during this frigid period of Earth's history.


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