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, 50 (3), 347-58

ESR and U-series Analyses of Enamel and Dentine Fragments of the Banyoles Mandible


ESR and U-series Analyses of Enamel and Dentine Fragments of the Banyoles Mandible

Rainer Grün et al. J Hum Evol.


The Banyoles mandible presents a puzzle. Its anatomy has been described as pre-Neandertal, but the travertine in which it was found has been dated to 45,000 +/- 4000 years. By this time, any pre-Neandertals had supposedly been absent from the European fossil record for more than 100,000 years. It was therefore proposed that the age of the travertine may represent a minimum age estimate, with the mandible possibly having been reworked from older deposits. We carried out a non-destructive ESR analysis of an enamel fragment removed from a molar and performed a series of in situ laser ablation U-series analyses on dentine fragments adjacent to the enamel piece. The analyses resulted in an apparent combined ESR-U-series age of 66,000 +/- 7000 years. The encasing travertine matrix was also analyzed for U-series isotopes and showed signs of U-mobilization. It cannot be excluded that the travertine matrix is older than the previously determined age. If the mandible was not reworked, then the combined ESR-U-series result on the tooth enamel would give its best age estimate. If, on the other hand, the mandible was reworked from another deposit, the actual ESR-U-series age will depend on the external dose rate from the previous matrix and the depth of its burial, which controls the degree of the attenuation of the cosmic dose rate over time. Considering a range of possible burial histories, the mean age of the mandible would lie somewhere between the combined ESR-U-series age and the previously determined age of the travertine matrix. Regarding the morphology of the mandible, a review of its features in the context of larger Neandertal samples indicates that the anatomy of the specimen is not incompatible with such a young age determination, although it further highlights morphological variation in the late Neandertal sample.

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