Neanderthal skeleton from Tabun: U-series data by gamma-ray spectrometry
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The Neanderthal hominid Tabun C1, found in Israel by Garrod & Bate, was attributed to either layer B or C of their stratigraphic sequence. We have used gamma-ray spectrometry to determine the 230Th/234U and 231Pa/235U ratios of two bones from this skeleton, the mandible and a femur. The ages calculated from these ratios depend on the uranium uptake history of the bones. Assuming a model of early U (EU) uptake the age of the Tabun C1 mandible is 34+/-5 ka. The EU age of the femur is 19+/-2 ka. The femur may have experienced continuous (linear) U uptake which would give an age of 33+/-4 ka, in agreement with the mandible's EU age, but implies marked inhomogeneity in U uptake history at the site. These new age estimates for the skeleton suggest that it was younger than deposits of layer C. This apparent age is less than those of other Neanderthals found in Israel, and distinctly younger than the ages of the Skhul and Qafzeh burials. This suggests that Neanderthals did not necessarily coexist with the earliest modern humans in the region. All of the more complete Neanderthal fossils from Israel are now dated to the cool period of the last glacial cycle, suggesting that Neanderthals may have arrived in this region as a result of the southward expansion of their habitable range. The young age determined for the Tabun skeleton would suggest that Neanderthals survived as late in the Levant as they did in Europe.
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