Study suggests that humans lived in rainforests longer than previously known

A study published in Science dating teeth found in Sri Lanka suggests that humans had adapted to rainforests for longer than originally thought – the teeth date to around 20,000 years ago. This discovery might have possible implications to how we think about prehistoric human habitation of rainforests in Southeast Asia.

Kekirawa

Toothy trail leads to rainforests
IOL, 16 March 2015

Direct evidence for human reliance on rainforest resources in late Pleistocene Sri Lanka
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa1230

Teeth reveal humans were early rainforest-dwellers
ABC Science, 13 March 2015

Early humans took to the rainforests sooner than previously thought
UPI, 13 March 2015

Humans Adapted to Rainforests Long Before We Thought
University of Oxford, via Laboratory News, 13 March 2015

Rain Forest Fossil Suggests Earlier Human Presence Than We Thought [Link no longer active]
Pioneer News, 12 March 2015

Humans Relied on Rainforest Riches 12,000 Years Earlier Than Thought
Smithsonan, 12 March 2015

Human occupation of tropical rainforest habitats is thought to be a mainly Holocene phenomenon. Although archaeological and paleoenvironmental data have hinted at pre-Holocene rainforest foraging, earlier human reliance on rainforest resources has not been shown directly. We applied stable carbon and oxygen isotope analysis to human and faunal tooth enamel from four late Pleistocene–to–Holocene archaeological sites in Sri Lanka. The results show that human foragers relied primarily on rainforest resources from at least ~20,000 years ago, with a distinct preference for semi-open rainforest and rain forest edges. Homo sapiens’ relationship with the tropical rainforests of South Asia is therefore long-standing, a conclusion that indicates the time-depth of anthropogenic reliance and influence on these habitats.

Link to paper here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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