The age of homo naledi and associated sediments in the rising star cave, South Africa

Paul H.G.M. Dirks, Eric M. Roberts, Hannah Hilbert-Wolf, Jan D. Kramers, John Hawks, Anthony Dosseto, Mathieu Duval, Marina Elliott, Mary Evans, Rainer Grun, John Hellstrom, Andy I.R. Herries, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Tebogo V. Makhubela, Christa J. Placzek, Jessie Robbins, Carl Spandler, Jelle Wiersma, Jon Woodhead, Lee R. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

188 Citations (Scopus)

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 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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24231
JournaleLife
Volume6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 May 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology

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