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Luminescence chronology of cave sediments at the Atapuerca paleoanthropological site, Spain

Berger, Glenn W. and Pérez González, Alfredo and Carbonell i Roura, Eudald and Arsuaga , Juan Luis de and Ku, Teh-Lung (2008) Luminescence chronology of cave sediments at the Atapuerca paleoanthropological site, Spain. Journal of Human Evolution, 55 . pp. 300-311. ISSN 0047-2484

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Abstract

Ascertaining the timing of the peopling of Europe, after the first out-of-Africa demographic expansion at
the end of the Pliocene, is of great interest to paleoanthropologists. One of the earliest direct evidences
for fossil hominins in western Europe comes from an infilled karstic cave site called Gran Dolina at
Atapuerca, in a stratum w1.5 m below the Brunhes–Matuyama (B–M) geomagnetic boundary (780 ka)
within lithostratigraphic unit TD6. However, most of the meters of fossil- and tool-bearing strata at Gran
Dolina have been difficult to date. Therefore, we applied both thermoluminescence (TL) and infraredstimulated-
luminescence (IRSL) multi-aliquot dating methods to fine-silt fractions from sediment
samples within Gran Dolina and the nearby Galerı´a cave site. We also applied these methods to samples
from the present-day surface soils on the surrounding limestone hill slopes to test the luminescenceclock-
zeroing-by-daylight assumption. Within the uppermost 4 m of the cave deposits at Gran Dolina, TL
and paired TL and IRSL ages range stratigraphically from 198 19 ka to 244 26 ka. Throughout Gran
Dolina, all luminescence results are stratigraphically self-consistent and, excepting results from two
stratigraphic units, are consistent with prior ESR-U-series ages from progressively deeper strata. Thermoluminescence
ages culminate at 960 120 ka approximately 1 m below the 780 ka B–M boundary. At
Galerı´a, with one exception, TL and IRSL ages range stratigraphically downward from 185 26 ka to
503 95 ka at the base of the lowermost surface-inwash facies. These results indicate that TL and
(sometimes) IRSL are useful dating tools for karstic inwash sediments older than ca. 100 ka, and that
a more accurate chronostratigraphic correlation is now possible among the main Atapuerca sites (Gran
Dolina, Galerı´a, Sima de los Huesos). Furthermore, the oldest TL age of ca. 960 ka from Gran Dolina,
consistent with biostratigraphic and paleomagnetic evidence, implies a probable numeric age of
900–950 ka for the oldest hominin remains (w0.8 m below the TL sample). This age window suggests
a correspondence to Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 25, a relatively warm and humid interglaciation.


Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Atapuerca, Dating; Hominin; Luminescence; Karstic caves; Spain
Subjects:Sciences > Geology > Paleontology
ID Code:12215
Deposited On:10 Feb 2011 10:31
Last Modified:10 Feb 2011 10:31

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