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Research delves 8,000 years into the past
An international team of archaeologists led by experts from North Yorkshire has uncovered evidence of human activity in the high slopes of the French Alps dating back over 8,000 years.
The 14-year study in the Parc National des Écrins in the southern Alps is one of the most detailed archaeological investigations carried out at high altitudes.
It reveals a story of human occupation and activity in one of the world’s most challenging environments from the Mesolithic to the Post-Medieval period.
The work included the excavation of a series of stone animal enclosures and human dwellings considered some of most complex high altitude Bronze Age structures found anywhere in the Alps.
The research, published in Quaternary International, was led by Dr Kevin Walsh, landscape archaeologist at the University of York in partnership with Florence Mocci of the Centre Camille Julian, Aix-en-Provence.
Dr Walsh said: “High altitude landscapes of 2,000 metres and above are considered remote and marginal. Many researchers had assumed that early societies showed little interest in these areas. This research shows that people, as well as climate, did have a role in shaping the Alpine landscape from as early as the Mesolithic period.
“It has radically altered our understanding of activity in the sub-alpine and alpine zones. It is also of profound relevance for the broader understanding of human-environment interactions in ecologically sensitive environments.”
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