Late Pleistocene-to-Holocene Ecological Change and High-Altitude Human Adaptations in Lesotho, Southern Africa

Investigation of Homo sapiens’ early expansions into high altitude African environments is changing how we perceive our species’ adaptions to various ‘extreme’ Pleistocene climates and habitats. Given the historic emphasis placed on sequences from Southern African archaeological sites at or near the coast, it is now crucial to complement such studies with those from the continent’s topographically variable and biologically diverse interior.

This project seeks to open a new window into Lesotho’s high-altitude settings through the application of compound-specific plant wax biomarkers, mainly normal (n-) alkanes and n-alkanoic acids. The use of wax biomarkers in upland archaeological sites of Lesotho offers opportunities to study past distributions of C3 and C4 vegetation and the impact of changes in temperature and precipitation on plant and animal resources from about 60,000 years ago into the present.

Because these high-altitude settings were susceptible to climate change, cold and dry conditions, and patchy resource distributions, the archaeology and paleoecology of Lesotho provide important perspectives regarding major adaptive challenges humans faced, as well as population interactions along the Maloti-Drakensberg mountain range.


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