Congratulations to Yuchao Zhao on receiving an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant! 

University of Michigan doctoral candidate Yuchao Zhao, along with colleagues in the US and China, will undertake research to study dynamic adaptive mechanisms and cultural interactions that contributed to large-scale sustained human occupations of global high-altitude environments. While it is recognized that humans have used such settings on an ephemeral basis since the late Pleistocene, the timing and catalysts of sustained year-round human occupation of such places remain a matter of debate. On the Tibetan Plateau, Earth’s largest high-altitude landmass, the introduction of cold-adapted domesticates during the second millennium BC is believed to have contributed significantly to permanent human occupation on a large-scale in the eastern Tibetan Plateau. However, the prehistoric archaeology of the Plateau’s western reaches is still in its infancy. Yuchao and his team will undertake an integrated program of excavation at the newly discovered site of Meilong Cave (4670 masl) I western Tibet. Meilong possesses a 1.5 m-deep well-stratified cultural sequence spanning from 2100 to 900 BC, a time envelope that overlaps perfectly with this key cultural transition on the Tibetan Plateau. The proposed project will address a major question of culture-historic importance for understanding the sustained occupation the Tibetan Plateau. The results of this research will help fill a major gap in our knowledge of Tibetan prehistory, and offer insights into broader anthropological understandings of both sustained human histories at high-altitudes as well as interactions between foragers and food producers at such an extreme frontier.