An accurate time scale is a crucial aspect of reconstructing the pattern of evolution of the anatomical and behavioral characteristics of early hominins.At least half a dozen methods of dating are now available that have the potential to cover events from 1000 years ago to many billions of years, albeit with some frustrating gaps.Paleoanthropologists' focus is on the last 10 million years or so, which includes some of those gaps.
has been considered to derive from a middle or later phase of the Central European Aurignacian period on the basis of archaeological remains (a few stone artefacts and organic items such as bone points, awls, perforated teeth).
The morphological variability in the human assemblage, the presence of apparently archaic features in some specimens, and the assumed early date of the remains have made this fossil assemblage pivotal in assessments of modern human emergence within Europe.
We present here the first successful direct accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating of five representative human fossils from the site.
We selected sample materials from teeth and from one bone for C years before present, and the bone sample (an ulna) provided an uncertain more-recent age.
These data are sufficient to confirm that the Mladehuman assemblage is the oldest cranial, dental and postcranialassemblage of early modern humans in Europe and is therefore central to discussions of modern human emergence in the northwestern Old World and the fate of the Neanderthals.
Paleoanthropologists have a suite of techniques available to them for inferring the age of fossils and artifacts.Typically, the techniques depend on determining the age of material associated with the relics in question, such as the strata in which they are found or other fossils of known age.Many of the techniques are based on the decay of radioactive isotopes.Two types of problem arise with this approach, however.First, for most objects of interest, no methods are as yet available for direct dating.Ancient fossils and most stone tools, for example, remain inaccessible to direct dating.