The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

How to survive the glacial apocalypse: bugging out in late Pleistocene Central Asia


1Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University, 2Department of Anthropology, Wellesley College

March 27, 2015 10:45, Grand Ballroom D Add to calendar

Previous research concerning the biogeography of hominin populations in Central Asia indicates persistence across interglacial/glacial sequences. Hominin groups are present on the landscape during the coldest episodes of the Last Glacial Period. Moreover, the Inner Asian Mountain Corridor (IAMC) perhaps served as a geographic conduit for human groups that found refuge in the foothill regions of the Altai as well as those of the southwestern horn of the Tien Shan; this conduit can be construed as the stage upon which hominin admixture occurred. The present study broadens the geographic focus of previous work to include the steppe and steppe/desert zones immediately adjacent to the biologically productive foothills of the IAMC. Our working hypothesis is that hominin groups were only able to persist in steppe regions during interglacial periods, while still remaining closely tethered to low altitude mountain ecosystems. Using an ecological threshold model, abiotic variables in relation to hominin site locations are analyzed to examine differences in fundamental niche structure when the IAMC is compared to the adjacent steppe/desert zones. This preliminary model of hominin-environment interactions serves as a useful example for the ways by which large scale hominin dispersal trajectories are mapped and interpreted. Issue of scale and the implications of extrapolating from single observation points to long distance human migration models will be discussed.