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Science. 2002 Oct 25;298(5594):821-4.

Human occupations and climate change in the Puna de Atacama, Chile.

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  • 1Instituto de Investigaciones Arqueológicas y Museo, Universidad Católica del Norte, Casilla 17, San Pedro Atacama, Chile.


Widespread evidence for human occupation of the Atacama Desert, 20 degrees to 25 degrees S in northern Chile, has been found from 13,000 calibrated 14C years before the present (cal yr B.P.) to 9500 cal yr B.P., and again after 4500 cal yr B.P. Initial human occupation coincided with a change from very dry environments to humid environments. More than 39 open early Archaic campsites at elevations above 3600 meters show that hunters lived around late glacial/early Holocene paleolakes on the Altiplano. Cessation of the use of the sites between 9500 and 4500 cal yr B.P. is associated with drying of the lakes. The mid-Holocene collapse of human occupation is also recorded in cave deposits. One cave contained Pleistocene fauna associated with human artifacts. Faunal diversity was highest during the humid early Holocene.

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