Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Humans dwelt in Ice-Age Tibet

27.03.2002


Humans were living in the Tibeatan mountains 16,000 years earlier than scientists had thought.
© Bill Bachmann/Alamy


Footprints and a fire found from 20,000 years ago.

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, Lhasa1.



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.

Carbonate cast

The very hot spring that probably attracted the Ice-Age settlers also preserved their marks for posterity. The spring water is rich in dissolved minerals and gases. As carbon dioxide gas bubbles out of the water, minerals such as calcite precipitate out. This forms a soft mineral mud. As the mud dries, it turns into a hard, durable limestone called travertine.

So, thanks to the hot spring, the mountainside made plaster casts of the Ice-Age people who lived on it. Nineteen hand- and footprints are clearly visible in the stone surface.

Zhang and Li date the travertine deposit by the tiny grains of quartz that got trapped within it while the mud solidified. Quartz acts as a mineral clock. When heated, it emits light in proportion to the time that has elapsed since it was last warmed or exposed to sunlight.

This technique is called thermoluminescence dating. Energy builds up in trapped quartz because it is exposed to radiation from natural radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium in surrounding minerals. It emits this energy as light: the longer the exposure time, the higher the energy and so the brighter the light.

Because heat or sunlight releases the trapped energy, the quartz grain clock would have been set to zero when the grains became embedded in the warm mud from the spring.

References

  1. Zhang, D.D. & Li, S. H.Optical dating of Tibetan human hand- and footprints: an implication for the palaeoenvironment of the last glaciation of the Tibetan Plateau. Geophysical Research Letters, 29, Published online DOI: 10.1029/2001GL013749 (2002).


PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht New dental implant with built-in reservoir reduces risk of infections
18.01.2017 | KU Leuven

nachricht Many muons: Imaging the underground with help from the cosmos
19.12.2016 | DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>