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Keywords:

  • 14C;
  • U-series;
  • ESR;
  • Border Cave;
  • Tabun;
  • Skhul;
  • Qafzeh;
  • Vindija;
  • Banyoles;
  • Mungo

Abstract

The methods that can be used for the direct dating of human remains comprise of radiocarbon, U-series, electron spin resonance (ESR), and amino acid racemization (AAR). This review gives an introduction to these methods in the context of dating human bones and teeth. Recent advances in ultrafiltration techniques have expanded the dating range of radiocarbon. It now seems feasible to reliably date bones up to 55,000 years. New developments in laser ablation mass spectrometry permit the in situ analysis of U-series isotopes, thus providing a rapid and virtually non-destructive dating method back to about 300,000 years. This is of particular importance when used in conjunction with non-destructive ESR analysis. New approaches in AAR analysis may lead to a renaissance of this method. The potential and present limitations of these direct dating techniques are discussed for sites relevant to the reconstruction of modern human evolution, including Florisbad, Border Cave, Tabun, Skhul, Qafzeh, Vindija, Banyoles, and Lake Mungo. Yrbk Phys Anthropol 49:2–48, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.