The Sima de los Huesos site of the Atapuerca complex near Burgos, Spain contains the skeletal remains of at least 28 individuals in a mud-breccia underlying an accumulation of the Middle Pleistocene cave bear (Ursus deningeri). We report here on new high-precision dates on the recently discovered speleothem SRA-3 overlaying human bones within the Sima de los Huesos. Earlier analyses of this speleothem by TIMS (thermal-ionization mass-spectrometry) showed the lower part to be indistinguishable from internal isotopic equilibrium at the precision of the TIMS instrumentation used, yielding minimum age of 350 kyr (kyr = 103 yr before present). Reanalysis of six samples of SRA-3 by inductively-coupled plasma-multicollector mass-spectrometry (ICP-MS) produced high-precision analytical results allowing calculation of finite dates. The new dates cluster around 600 kyr. A conservative conclusion takes the lower error limit ages as the minimum age of the speleothem, or 530 kyr. This places the SH hominids at the very beginnings of the Neandertal evolutionary lineage.
Additional Publication Details
High-resolution U-series dates from the Sima de los Huesos hominids yields 600- 66+ ??? kyrs: implications for the evolution of the early Neanderthal lineage