Confirmation of a late middle Pleistocene age for the Omo Kibish 1 cranium by direct uranium-series dating
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While it is generally accepted that modern humans evolved in Africa, the specific physical evidence for that origin remains disputed. The modern-looking Omo 1 skeleton, discovered in the Kibish region of Ethiopia in 1967, was controversially dated at ~130 ka (thousands of years ago) by U-series dating on associated Mollusca, and it was not until 2005 that Ar-Ar dating on associated feldspar crystals in pumice clasts provided evidence for an even older age of ~195 ka. However, questions continue to be raised about the age and stratigraphic position of this crucial fossil specimen. Here we present direct U-series determinations on the Omo 1 cranium. In spite of significant methodological complications, which are discussed in detail, the results indicate that the human remains do not belong to a later intrusive burial and are the earliest representative of anatomically modern humans. Given the more archaic morphology shown by the apparently contemporaneous Omo 2 calvaria, we suggest that direct U-series dating is applied to this fossil as well, to confirm its age in relation to Omo 1.
Journal of Human Evolution