High Altitude Settlement as Evolutionary Process

Author(s): Christopher Morgan

Year: 2018


The peopling of high altitudes and altitude’s ecological analog, high latitude, are critical to understanding worldwide human dispersals and the diversity of human adaptation but are still quite poorly understood. Within this context, this paper presents a model for the initiation, establishment, and maintenance of permanent high altitude settlements, especially in middle latitudes. This model takes into account the limiting factors found in such settings, the costs and benefits of different ways of coping with these limitations, and the contexts under which different behavioral strategies and physiological changes might be expected to be selected either for or against. The model is evaluated with archaeological data from the Rockies, Intermountain West and the Argentine Andes. This evaluation suggests that in most scenarios demographic packing triggers increasingly intensive high altitude use, that establishing semi-permanent or permanent settlements requires economic subsidization with lower-altitude resources and increasingly costly high altitude ones, and that maintenance of high altitude lifeways is tenuous and contingent upon both biological adaptation and/or articulation with larger regional economies.

Cite this Record

High Altitude Settlement as Evolutionary Process. Christopher Morgan. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444409)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.189; min lat: 31.803 ; max long: -105.469; max lat: 43.58 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20125