Direct dating of human fossils
As obvious as it sounds, if one want to know the age of a human fossil, it's best to date the human fossil itself. However, that usually did not go down well with the curators of human fossils, as it meant in the past that large chunks of fossil material disappeared in sample preparation procedures sometimes with little to no chronological outcome. Dating associated materials is fraught with the vagrancies of establishing taphonomic relationships between the human fossils and the material that was actually dated.
We have developed new, least invasive methods for U-series and ESR dating, which have allowed the analysis of a large number of human fossils, partly rewriting the chronology of human evolution, particularly in SE Asia.
About the Presenter
Prof. Rainer Grün is the inaugural Professor of Archaeogeochemistry at Griffith University. He is a former senior professor at the Australian National University, where he started in 1992 as the head of the Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory. Over the years, he headed the Quaternary Dating Research Centre and later the Archaeogeochemistry group at the Research School of Earth Sciences. He graduated at the Department of Geology at the Universität zu Köln with a Diplom (Dipl. Geol.) in 1982 and a Dissertation (Dr. rer nat.) in 1985 under the supervision of Prof. Karl Brunnacker. This was followed by a two year postdoctoral fellowship at McMaster University in Canada and a research appointment at the University of Cambridge to head the Luminescence Dating Laboratory in the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research. He obtained a Doctor of Science degree from the ANU and a Habilitation from the Universität zu Köln. He is an elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He is the founding editor of the international refereed journal Quaternary Geochronology. He has published a book on ESR dating and more than 200 refereed research papers. The central theme of Prof. Grün's research is geochronology. He is an acknowledged leader in the field of ESR dating and has extensive experience in U-series, radiocarbon and luminescence dating. His work on Qafzeh, Skhul, and Tabun in the early 1990s contributed to a complete revision of our views on modern human evolution and archaeological chronology. His work demonstrated that anatomically early humans were present at about 100,000 years ago in the Levant, and up to 200,000 years ago in northern Africa (Irhoud, Omo).
For the last ten years Prof. Grün changed his research direction to in situ isotope analysis. He is leading the field in the least destructive isotope analyses of human fossils. He has shown that sample loss can be minimised by laser drilling while it is still possible to gain information about the spatial distribution of isotopes, important for U-series age modelling or identifying contamination for Sr isotope analysis.