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

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posted on 27.04.2022, 00:48 by Paul HGM Dirks, Eric M Roberts, Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Jan D Kramers, John Hawks, Anthony Dosseto, Mathieu Duval, Marina Elliott, Mary Evans, Rainer Grun, John Hellstrom, Andrew HerriesAndrew Herries, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Tebogo V Makhubela, Christa J Placzek, Jessie Robbins, Carl Spandler, Jelle Wiersma, Jon Woodhead, Lee R Berger
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 of222Rn 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.


Australian Research Council DP140104282 Paul H G M Dirks Eric M Roberts Hannah Hilbert-Wolf Jan D Kramers Carl Spandler Lee R BergerAustralian Research Council FT120100399 Andy IR HerriesAustralian Research Council DP140100919 Renaud Joannes-BoyauMarie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship PIOF-GA-2013-626474 Mathieu DuvalAustralian Research Council FT150100215 Matthieu DuvalNational Geographic Society Lee R BergerNational Research Foundation Lee R BergerLyda Hill Foundation Lee R Berger


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59p. (p. 1-59)


eLife Sciences Publications



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© Dirks et al. 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.