Radiocarbon chronology and environmental context of Last Glacial Maximum human occupation in Switzerland.
Central Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) was dominated by polar desert and steppe-tundra biomes. Despite this, a human presence during this time period is evident at several locations across the region, including in Switzerland, less than 50 km from the Alpine ice sheet margin. It has been hypothesised that such human activity may have been restricted to brief periods of climatic warming within the LGM, but chronological information from many of these sites are currently too poorly resolved to corroborate this. Here we present a revised chronology of LGM human occupation in Switzerland. AMS radiocarbon dating of cut-marked reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) bones from the sites of Kastelhohle-Nord and Y-Hohle indicates human occupation of Switzerland was most likely restricted to between 23,400 and 22,800 cal. BP. This timeframe corresponds to Greenland Interstadial 2, a brief warming phase, supporting the hypothesis that human presence was facilitated by favourable climatic episodes. Carbon, nitrogen and sulphur stable isotope analysis of the fauna provides palaeoenvironmental information for this time period. These findings contribute to our understanding of human activity in ice-marginal environments and have implications for understanding cultural connections across central Europe during the LGM.