Laser ablation U-series dating results on human and faunal bone fragments from Wajak, Indonesia, indicate a minimum age of between 37.4 and 28.5 ka (thousands of years ago) for the whole assemblage. These are significantly older than previously published radiocarbon estimates on bone carbonate, which suggested a Holocene age for a human bone fragment and a late Pleistocene age for a faunal bone. The analysis of the organic components in the faunal material show severe degradation and a positive δ13C ratio indicate a high degree of secondary carbonatisation. This may explain why the thermal release method used for the original age assessments yielded such young ages. While the older U-series ages are not in contradiction with the morphology of the Wajak human fossils or Javanese biostratigraphy, they will require a reassessment of the evolutionary relationships of modern human remains in Southeast Asia and Oceania. It can be expected that systematic direct dating of human fossils from this area will lead to further revisions of our understanding of modern human evolution.

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Journal of Human Evolution
Erasmus School of Economics

Storm, P, Wood, R, Stringer, C, Bartsiokas, A, de Vos, J, Aubert, M, … Grün, R. (2013). U-series and radiocarbon analyses of human and faunal remains from Wajak, Indonesia. Journal of Human Evolution, 64(5), 356–365. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2012.11.002