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Altitude Environments in Archaeology

  • Mark AldenderferEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: http://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-51726-1_2012-2
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Introduction

Because humans have evolved as a low-elevation species, to live and thrive at high elevations, our species had to develop physiological, genetic, and cultural adaptations to this extreme environment. Although it is probable that humans made seasonal forays into high-elevation environments, perhaps beginning in the Lower Paleolithic in Africa, the permanent occupation of high-elevation environments occurred relatively late in prehistory. The adoption and spread of plant and animal cultigens, along with acquired genetic adaptations, allowed high-elevation inhabitants, particularly in the world’s high plateaus, to create complex polities.

Definition

High-elevation (or altitude) environments are defined as those at and over 2500 masl (meters above mean sea level). It is at this elevation that native lowlanders first experience hypoxia, which is the reduced partial pressure of oxygen. At sea level, for example, arterial blood is 97% saturated with oxygen; at 3000 m, it is at...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California, MercedMercedUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Vivian Scheinsohn
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano - Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científico y Técnicas/Universidad de Buenos AiresBuenos AiresArgentina