Farming Supported Survival of Early People at High Altitudes

Farming Supported Survival of Early People at High Altitudes


Settling on high altitudes must have been a difficult task for the early people back then, but the scientists believe that farming helped them to succeed. According to a new study reported on Thursday, the Tibetan highlands were inhabited by people some 3,600 years ago, which provides one of the first evidences of human settlement in high altitudes. The harsh winds, freezing temperatures and low oxygen must have been very challenging for inhabitation. However, the researchers believe that their shift was greatly supported by their occupational change, from gathering and hunting to farming. The finding has been published in the journal Science.

Martin Jones, study author and Cambridge University archaeologist, elaborated “the key to their movement is that crops from very different parts of Asia were coming together at that time. There was a sort of reshuffling of old crops with alien ones. They added a new ingredient to their farming tool kit.” Jones also pointed at the challenging conditions that must have prevailed for surviving at high altitudes. The researchers are now trying to understand the adaptations of humans, livestock and crops to such heights.

Dorian Fuller from the University College of London stated “people spread almost everywhere as hunter-gatherers, but they were mostly few and far between, and mobile, especially in places like Tibet. Agriculture allowed populations to settle into new environments and grow in numbers.” He further added “it’s taking a novel crop and using it in a different way—exploring these high altitudes in a way that wasn’t possible before. It’s a global phenomenon of farmers taking on exotic crops. It’s basically an expansionist period where people were looking for new options in new, extreme environments.”

According to Jones, the early people adapted to extreme environments by surviving on imported grains. Growing barley, a frost-resistant western crop, also helped them to establish permanent settlements.  Digging more into the rich ecology of the past societies reflects the farming of a wide array of crops in some of the most challenging environments, which might in turn open up new gateways for us in future while wandering through food security issues.