ESR dating at Mezmaiskaya Cave, Russia
Mezmaiskaya Cave has yielded more than 10,000 artifacts, thousands of very well preserved faunal remains, and hominin remains, found in seven Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) and three Upper Paleolithic levels. A complete Neanderthal infant skeleton was preserved in anatomical juxtaposition lying on a large limestone block, overlain by the earliest Mousterian layer, Layer 3. Twenty-four skull fragments from a 1–2 year-old Neanderthal infant, showing post-mortem deformation, occurred in a pit originating in the Mousterian Layer 2 and penetrating into underlying layers 2A and 2B(1). Bone from Layer 2A was dated by AMS 14C at 35.8–36.3±0.5 kyr BP. Direct dating of Neanderthal bone from Layer 3 gave an age of 29 kyr, but that is now considered to be due to contamination by modern carbon. Fourteen large mammal teeth from Layers 2 through 3 have been dated by standard electron spin resonance (ESR). Low U concentrations in both the enamel and dentine ensure that ESR ages do not depend significantly on the U uptake model, but do depend strongly on the sedimentary dose rates. Assuming a sedimentary water concentration equal to 20 wt%, ESR ages for the Mousterian layers range from 36.2 to 73.0±5.0 ka.