The high Andes of South America were among the last environments that Homo sapiens colonized during its Pleistocene dispersion out of Africa. The peopling of this high-elevation environment was constrained by atmospheric hypoxia, cold stress, and resource availability. Here we report archaeological and geoarchaeological analyses from Cueva Bautista, a dry rock shelter, located at 3933 m above sea level in southwestern Bolivia. We focus on a well-preserved occupation surface containing hearths and high-quality stone tools AMS dated to 12,700-12,100 cal BP. Geoarchaeological resolution of the site supports its stratigraphic integrity and archaeological analyses indicate that the early human occupation was formed as a temporary camp by mobile foragers relying on a curated technological strategy. Regional paleoenvironmental reconstructions suggest that Cueva Bautista's occupation was synchronous with humid conditions and its abandonment with increased aridity. Our findings suggest that mobile hunter-gatherers explored - albeit not colonized - the high Andes during the late Pleistocene and provides further support that a combination of biological, behavioral, and environmental constraints affected human adaptation to this extreme environment.
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