Cosmogenic nuclide burial dating of hominin-bearing Pleistocene cave deposits at Swartkrans, South Africa


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December 2014


Based on the cosmogenic nuclide burial dating technique, we present new radiometric age estimates of 2.19 ± 0.08 and 1.80 ± 0.09 million-years-old (Ma) for Member 1, and 0.96 ± 0.09 Ma for Member 3 of the Swartkrans Formation in South Africa. Our data are consistent with, and expand upon, results from previous radiometric dating techniques used at the site. The burial ages of Member 1 are consistent with the uranium–lead (U–Pb) age provided by bracketing flowstones (Pickering et al., 2011), while the age of Member 3 is significantly more precise than the large age bracket provided by U–Pb dating of tooth enamel (Balter et al., 2008) and recently re-evaluated electron spin resonance data (Herries and Adams, 2013). These new dates provide the complete age range for the extinct hominin, Paranthropus robustus, as well as indicate the first appearance of the genus Homo in southern Africa. Our results also indicate: the first, as well as the last, manufacture and use of bone digging tools in South Africa; some of the earliest evidence of stone tool use and large animal butchery in South Africa; and one of the earliest archaeological indications of the domestication of fire in the world.


Cosmogenic Nuclide Burial Dating, Swartkrans Cave, Paranthropus Robustus, Early Homo, Stone And Bone Tools, Fire

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Quaternary Geochronology, Vol. 24 (2014-12).