Modern fossil dating techniques

), by association with Aurignacian sites and lithic assemblages assumed to have been made by modern humans rather than by Neanderthals.

However, the actual physical evidence for modern humans is extremely rare, and direct dates reach no farther back than about 41–39, leaving a gap.

Here we show, using stratigraphic, chronological and archaeological data, that a fragment of human maxilla from the Kent’s Cavern site, UK, dates to the earlier period.

The maxilla (KC4), which was excavated in 1927, was initially diagnosed as Upper Palaeolithic modern human.

Using a Bayesian analysis of new ultrafiltered bone collagen dates in an ordered stratigraphic sequence at the site, we show that this date is a considerable underestimate. This makes it older than any other equivalently dated modern human specimen and directly contemporary with the latest European Neanderthals, thus making its taxonomic attribution crucial.

We also show that in 13 dental traits KC4 possesses modern human rather than Neanderthal characteristics; three other traits show Neanderthal affinities and a further seven are ambiguous.

KC4 therefore represents the oldest known anatomically modern human fossil in northwestern Europe, fills a key gap between the earliest dated Aurignacian remains and the earliest human skeletal remains, and demonstrates the wide and rapid dispersal of early modern humans across Europe more than 40 C.

determined the spatial and depth locations of the AMS-dated bones, identified the material and analysed the site’s lithic remains.

A further conclusion from this work is that the Uluzzian culture of southern Europe — always found stratigraphically below the Aurignacian signature culture of the modern humans — may represent the earliest modern humans in Europe rather than the last Neanderthals.

The dental morphology of the jawbone indicates that its attribution as early human, rather than Neanderthal, is reliable. reanalyse two teeth from the Uluzzian site Grotta del Cavallo in southern Italy and conclude that they are definitively modern, not Neanderthal, and date to 45,000–43,000 years old.

Two papers published this week use the latest radiocarbon dating and morphological analysis techniques to reassess museum hominid samples. examine a human maxilla from the Aurignacian site at Kent's Cavern in the United Kingdom, discovered in 1927 and previously dated at around 35,000 years old, and arrive at an age of 44,200–41,500 years.

Physical evidence for early humans is scarce, and these dates are based largely on studies of stone tool assemblages.

Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived in Europe 44,000–42,000 years ago.

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