Age of the oldest hominin settlements in Spain: Contribution of the combined U-series/ESR dating method applied to fossil teeth
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This paper presents a synthesis of the combined Uranium-Series/ESR age results obtained on fossil teeth from several Early Pleistocene archaeological and/or palaeontological Spanish localities: Atapuerca Gran Dolina TD-6, Fuente Nueva-3, Barranco León, Venta Micena and Vallparadís. While the age results show some scattering, they are nevertheless encouraging and provide a significant contribution to the understanding of the first hominin settlements in Western Europe. These “old” samples are mainly characterised by high 230Th/234U activity ratios that may sometimes exceed secular equilibrium, and by high Uranium concentrations (several tens of ppm or more). The modelling of U-uptake is therefore really crucial for the age calculation process. In the case of the combined US–ESR approach, this uptake is derived from the U-series data measured in dental tissues, which seem to be strongly dependant on the hydro-geological context. Consequently, when dating “old” samples, a special attention has to be paid to the accuracy and the meaning of the U-series data collected from the dental tissues, which may be influenced by several factors such as spatial heterogeneity and recent U-uptake overprint. Some rapid scanning procedures should be developed in order to pre-identify the samples that are the most suitable for ESR dating.