Environmental conditions framing the first evidence of modern humans at Tam Pà Ling, Laos

a stable isotope record from terrestrial gastropod carbonates

Stefania Milano*, Fabrice Demeter, Jean-Jacques Hublin, Philippe Duringer, Elise Patole-Edoumba, Jean-Luc Ponche, Laura Shackelford, Quentin Boesch, Nguyen Thi Mai Houng, Luu Thi Phoung Lan, Somoh Duangthongchit, Thongsa Sayavonkhamdy, Phonephanh Sichanthongtip, Daovee Sihanam, Viengkeo Souksavatdy, Kira Westaway, Anne-Marie Bacon

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    4 Citations (Scopus)


    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)352-363
    Number of pages12
    JournalPalaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2018


    • Land snails
    • Late Pleistocene
    • Oxygen and carbon stable isotopes
    • Paleoenvironment

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