Mainland Southeast Asia is a key region to interpret modern human migrations; however, due to a scarcity of terrestrial proxies, environmental conditions are not well understood. This study focuses on the Tam Pà Ling cave site in northeast Laos, which contains the oldest evidence for modern humans in Indochina, dating back to MIS 4 (70 ± 8 ka). Snail remains of Camaena massiei found throughout the stratigraphic sequence contain a valuable oxygen and carbon isotope record of past local vegetation and humidity changes. Our data indicate that before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), northeast Laos was characterized by a humid climate and forested environments. With the onset of the LGM, a major climatic shift occurred, inducing a sharp decrease in precipitation and a significant decline in woodland habitats in favor of the expansion to more open landscapes. Only during the Holocene did forests return in northeast Laos, resembling present conditions. The first Homo sapiens arriving in Indochina therefore encountered landscapes dominated by woodlands with a minor proportion of open habitats.
- Land snails
- Late Pleistocene
- Oxygen and carbon stable isotopes