Newly discovered fossil- and artifact-bearing deposits, uranium-series ages, and Plio-Pleistocene hominids at Swartkrans Cave, South Africa


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Journal of Human Evolution

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We report on new research at Swartkrans Cave, South Africa, that provides evidence of two previously unrealized artifact- and fossil-bearing deposits. These deposits underlie a speleothem dated by the uranium-thorium disequilibrium technique to 110,000 ± 1,980 years old, the first tightly constrained, geochronological date available for the site. Recovered fauna from the two underlying deposits—including, prominently, the dental remains of Paranthropus (Australopithecus) robustus from the uppermost layer (Talus Cone Deposit)—indicate a significantly older, late Pliocene or early Pleistocene age for these units. The lowest unit (LB East Extension) is inferred to be an eastward extension of the well-known Lower Bank of Member 1, the earliest surviving infill represented at the site. The date acquired from the speleothem also sets the maximum age of a rich Middle Stone Age lithic assemblage.

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