Dating the past using Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) and Uranium series (U/Th)
Since the beginning of archaeology, new fossil hominid finds have constantly reshaped our understanding of the human journey. However, it is often difficult to place these discoveries in their temporal context. Dating studies on paleoanthropological sites are usually carried out on material associated with the hominin remains, such as the sediment, charcoal or other fauna rather than the hominin specimen itself. This approach is, in many cases, not satisfactory because the relationship between the associated materials and the specimen is often uncertain. Additionally, the commonly used technique of radiocarbon dating reaches back only to about 50 to 60 ka and, as a consequence, many important questions in our understanding of human evolution cannot be addressed. Recent advances in dating methods by Joannes-Boyau and Grun (2010; 2011) and Joannes-Boyau et al., (2009; 2010a,b and 2011) now allow for a more accurate non-destructive direct dating of human fossil remains, and have shown that most previous Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) age were underestimated by as much as 30% (Joannes-Boyau and Grun, 2011). The project aims to apply a pioneering non-destructive direct dating methodology to unique anatomically modern human remains (including Neanderthal fossils). The study capitalises on the recent breakthrough from the combined ESR/U-series dating techniques applied to key archaeological sites for understanding human evolution.
Kabwe’ or ‘Broken Hill 1’ Homo heidelbergensis skull
(credits: Stuart Humphreys © Australian; Museum; http://australianmuseum.net.au/Homo-heidelbergensis/)