We report here mass spectrometric U-series dates on calcite samples from New Cave, one of the Zhoukoudian localities. The lowermost sub-layer of the capping flowstone dates to ca. 120 ka, implying the absence of Late Pleistocene cultural deposits within the cave. The second flowstone layer was formed between 248 and 269 ka, marking possibly the minimum age of the hominid fossil. Three samples taken from the lowest accessible strata date to ca. 300 ka, suggesting an even greater antiquity for the cultural horizon at the bottom of the depositional sequence. The new age assignment, from previously estimated early Late Pleistocene to late Middle Pleistocene, makes New Cave broadly contemporaneous with the uppermost strata of the Peking Man site. This is in line not only with the observation that the previously established chronological sequence for Chinese Middle-Late Pleistocene sites may have been underestimated as a whole but also with the hypothesis that human occupation of the Zhoukoudian sites has been more or less continuous over hundreds of thousand years.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This project was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40073020). ICP-MS technical support was covered in part by US NSF Grant MRI 0116395. We thank Xing Gao, Wanbo Huang, Yumin Gu, Zhenxin Yuan and Bingxi Cai for assistance in sample collection and for valuable discussions. The first author is thankful to National Key Project 211 (Environmental change and ecological reconstruction on multi-spatio-temporal scales) for supporting his laboratory and to Li Shi and Xinfeng Zhang for helps in sample pretreatment. The manuscript was improved by critical comments from two anonymous referees.
- New Cave
- U-series dating