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Geology and preliminary dating of the hominid-bearing sedimentary fill of the Sima de los Huesos Chamber, Cueva Mayor of the Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain

Journal of Human Evolution

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Abstract

Sediments of the Sima de los Huesos vary greatly over distances of a few meters. This is typical of interior cave facies, and caused by cycles of cut and fill. Mud breccias containing human bones, grading upwards to mud containing bear bones, fill an irregular surface cut into basal marls and sands. The lack of bedding and the chaotic abundance of fragile speleothem clasts in the fossiliferous muds suggests that the deposit was originally a subterranean pond facies, and that after emplacement of the human remains, underwent vigorous post-depositional rotation and collapse and brecciation, caused by underlying bedrock dissolution and undermining. The fossiliferous deposits are capped by flowstone and guano-bearing muds which lack large-mammal fossils. U-series and radiocarbon dating indicates the capping flowstones formed from about 68 ka to about 25 ka. U-series analyses of speleothem clasts among the human fossils indicate that all are at, or close to, isotopic equilibrium (>350 ka). The distribution of U-series dates for 25 bear bones (154??66ka) and for 16 human bones (148??34 ka) is similar and rather broad. Because the human bones seem to be stratigraphically older than those of the bears, the results would indicate that most of the bones have been accumulating uranium irregularly with time. Electron spin resonance (ESR) analyses of six selected bear bones indicates dates of 189??28 ka, for which each is concordant with their corresponding U-series date (181??41 ka). Combined ESR and U-series dates for these samples yielded 200??4 ka. Such agreement is highly suggestive that uranium uptake in these bones was close to the early-uptake (EU) model, and the dates are essentially correct. Another three selected samples yielded combined ESR-U-series dates of 320??4 ka with a modeled intermediate-mode of uranium uptake. The dating results, therefore, seem to provide a firm minimum age of about 200 ka for the human entry; and suggestive evidence of entry before 320 ka. ?? 1997 Academic Press Limited.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Geology and preliminary dating of the hominid-bearing sedimentary fill of the Sima de los Huesos Chamber, Cueva Mayor of the Sierra de Atapuerca, Burgos, Spain
Series title:
Journal of Human Evolution
Volume
33
Issue:
2-3
Year Published:
1997
Language:
English
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Journal of Human Evolution
First page:
129
Last page:
154