The archaeologists have unearthed the oldest-known evidence of humans settlement at extremely high altitudes in the Peruvian Andes.
The traces of human settlement have been found at the sites located nearly 14,700 feet (4,500 meters) above sea level. They were occupied roughly 12,000 years ago.
The sites include rock shelter having traces of rock art, Ice Age campfires and an open-air workshop having stone tools and fragments.
The new findings suggest that the ancient people in South America lived at extremely high altitudes around 2,000 years after the humans first reached the continent.
The researchers said that the new discovery also poses several questions regarding how these early settlers adapted to sky-high lifestyle physically.
“Either they genetically adapted really, really fast within 2,000 years to be able to settle this area, or genetic adaptation isn’t necessary at all,” said Kurt Rademaker, lead study author and visiting assistant professor in anthropology (at the time of study) at the University of Maine.
The research team is also planning to carry out study to find out more evidence of their occupation, such as human remains.
The scientists made the recent findings of these high-altitude artifacts following rigourous work that started in the 1990s.
Rademaker and his fellow team members were studying a 13,000-year-old Paleoindian fishing settlement along the coast of Peru known as Quebrada Jaguay.
They found tools made of obsidian, a volcanic rock at the site. The researchers noted that there were no rivers or other geologic forces that would have carried the volcanic rock to the coast.
The only closest volcanoes were in the Andes Mountains, which is roughly 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, said Rademaker, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany.
“This obsidian told us that early on, Paleoindians must have gone to the highlands,” Rademaker said.
The findings have been detailed on October 23 in the journal Science.