Thermal ionization mass spectrometric 230Th/234U dating has been carried out on intercalated speleothem samples from the limestone cave occupied by Homo erectus at Zhoukoudian, China. The samples were recently collected in proper stratigraphic context after detailed field examinations. The results show that the age of the No. 5 Skull from Layer 3 is >400 ka, possibly in the range of about 400-500 ka, and that the hominid fossils from the lower strata are at least 600 ka and possibly >800 ka, much older than previously thought. The near-equilibrium 230Th/234U ratios and internal consistency of the dates and stratigraphy lend credence to the results and allow us to comment on their important implications for human evolution.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (49363008) and the US NSF (SBR-9420777). The Committee on Scholarly Exchange with China is thanked for sponsoring G.J.S.’s first visit to labs in the U.S.A. during 1993. We would also like to thank Mr Bingxi Cai and Mr Linhong Jin for assistance in sample collection, and Prof. P. V. Tobias and three anonymous referees for constructive suggestions and comments.
- Homo erectus
- Locality 1
- Speleothem calcite
- TIMS U-series dating