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Southern Cross GeoScience

A new timeline for Human evolution and migration

Description

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.

Funding

SCU Postdoctoral Fellowship Renaud Joannes-Boyau

SCU Investigator

  • Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau (SCU), and
  • A/Prof Anja Scheffers (SCU).

Homo heidelbergensis skull
'Kabwe' or 'Broken Hill 1' Homo heidelbergensis skull
(credits: Stuart Humphreys © Australian; Museum; http://australianmuseum.net.au/Homo-heidelbergensis/)

Collaborators

  • Dr Mathieu Duval (ESR department at Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (Spain), and
  • Dr Marie-Helene Moncel (Museum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, France).

Development of geochronology techniques: enhancing methodology, protocols and accuracy of non-destructive ESR and U-series direct dating methods.

Description

To understand human evolution, archaeologists require precise chronologies so as to compare and contrast fossil collections. While indirect dating of the sedimentary matrices of human occupation sites are considered somehow more precise than direct dating techniques, their accuracy is frequently poor.

To minimise the impact of direct dating on valuable and oftentimes fragile archaeological samples, new methods and protocols for non-destructive U-Th and ESR analyses are being developed and investigated.

Funding

  • SCU Postdoctoral Fellowship Renaud Joannes-Boyau,

SCU Investigator

  • Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau (SCU),
  • A/Prof Anja Scheffers (SCU),

Collaborators

  • Dr Thomas, Bodin (University of Berkeley California, USA), and
  • Dr Mathieu Duval (ESR department at Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (Spain).

non-destructive ESR direct dating of human fossils

Measurement protocol for non-destructive ESR direct dating of human fossils (Joannes-Boyau et al., 2011)