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UT Dating for Ostrich Shells in South African Midden

Posted: Fri Apr 30, 2021 8:49 pm
by Minimalist
Interesting concept for dating what are apparently ubiquitous items in hominid garbage heaps.

https://www.heritagedaily.com/2021/04/u ... est/138857

Uranium-series dating shows South African midden is world’s oldest


Archeologists have learned a lot about our ancestors by rummaging through their garbage piles, which contain evidence of their diet and population levels as the local flora and fauna changed over time.

One common kitchen scrap in Africa — shells of ostrich eggs — is now helping unscramble the mystery of when these changes took place, providing a timeline for some of the earliest Homo sapiens who settled down to utilize marine food resources along the South African coast more than 100,000 years ago.

Geochronologists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Berkeley Geochronology Center (BGC) have developed a technique that uses these ubiquitous discards to precisely date garbage dumps — politely called middens — that are too old to be dated by radiocarbon or carbon-14 techniques, the standard for materials like bone and wood that are younger than about 50,000 years.

In a paper published this month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, former UC Berkeley doctoral student Elizabeth Niespolo and geochronologist and BGC and associate director Warren Sharp reported using uranium-thorium dating of ostrich eggshells to establish that a midden outside Cape Town, South Africa, was deposited between 119,900 and 113,100 years ago.

Re: UT Dating for Ostrich Shells in South African Midden

Posted: Sat May 01, 2021 4:17 pm
by circumspice
Other than dating to establish a timeline, what fascinates me is that some species learned fairly early in their history to not "mess in the nest". A few anthropologists speculated long ago that burials were just another form of garbage disposal, or it probably was in the beginning... I guess when they started adding grave goods was the point at which garbage disposal became burials.