The age of Homo naledi and associated sediments in the Rising Star Cave, South Africa

Dirks, Paul H.G.M., Roberts, Eric M., Hilbert-Wolf, Hannah, Kramers, Jan D., Hawks, John, Dossetto, Anthony, Duval, Mathieu, Elliott, Marina, Evans, Mary, Grün, Ranier, Hellstrom, John, Herries, Andy I.R., Joannes-Boyau, Renaud, Makhubela, Tebogo V., Placzek, Christa J., Robbins, Jessie, Spandler, Carl, Wiersma, Jelle, Woodhead, Jon, and Berger, Lee R. (2017) The age of Homo naledi and associated sediments in the Rising Star Cave, South Africa. eLife, 6. pp. 1-59.

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Abstract

New ages for flowstone, sediments and fossil bones from the Dinaledi Chamber are presented. We combined optically stimulated luminescence dating of sediments with U-Th and palaeomagnetic analyses of flowstones to establish that all sediments containing Homo naledi fossils can be allocated to a single stratigraphic entity (sub-unit 3b), interpreted to be deposited between 236 ka and 414 ka. This result has been confirmed independently by dating three H. naledi teeth with combined U-series and electron spin resonance (US-ESR) dating. Two dating scenarios for the fossils were tested by varying the assumed levels of 222Rn loss in the encasing sediments: a maximum age scenario provides an average age for the two least altered fossil teeth of 253 +82/–70 ka, whilst a minimum age scenario yields an average age of 200 +70/–61 ka. We consider the maximum age scenario to more closely reflect conditions in the cave, and therefore, the true age of the fossils. By combining the US-ESR maximum age estimate obtained from the teeth, with the U-Th age for the oldest flowstone overlying Homo naledi fossils, we have constrained the depositional age of Homo naledi to a period between 236 ka and 335 ka. These age results demonstrate that a morphologically primitive hominin, Homo naledi, survived into the later parts of the Pleistocene in Africa, and indicate a much younger age for the Homo naledi fossils than have previously been hypothesized based on their morphology.

Item ID: 49083
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 2050-084X
Additional Information:

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.

Funders: National Geographic Society, National Research Foundation (NRF), Lyda Hill Foundation, Australian Research Council (ARC), Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship (MCIOF), European Union (EU)
Projects and Grants: ARC DP140104282, ARC FT120100399, MCIOF REA Grant Agreement no. PIOF-GA-2013-626474, EU Seventh Framework Program FP7/2007-2013, ARC Future Fellowship FT150100215, ARC DP140100919
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2017 02:46
FoR Codes: 04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040303 Geochronology @ 50%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology @ 25%
04 EARTH SCIENCES > 0403 Geology > 040308 Palaeontology (incl Palynology) @ 25%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970104 Expanding Knowledge in the Earth Sciences @ 100%
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