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J Hum Evol. 2009 Feb;56(2):152-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.09.006. Epub 2008 Dec 20.

Early Acheulean technology in the Rietputs Formation, South Africa, dated with cosmogenic nuclides.

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1
School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, Private Bag 3, WITS 2050, South Africa. ryan.gibbon@mail.com

Abstract

An absolute dating technique based on the build-up and decay of (26)Al and (10)Be in the mineral quartz provides crucial evidence regarding early Acheulean hominid distribution in South Africa. Cosmogenic nuclide burial dating of an ancient alluvial deposit of the Vaal River (Rietputs Formation) in the western interior of South Africa shows that coarse gravel and sand aggradation there occurred ca 1.57+/-0.22Ma, with individual ages of samples ranging from 1.89+/-0.19 to 1.34+/-0.22Ma. This was followed by aggradation of laminated and cross-bedded fine alluvium at ca 1.26+/-0.10Ma. The Rietputs Formation provides an ideal situation for the use of the cosmogenic nuclide burial dating method, as samples could be obtained from deep mining pits at depths ranging from 7 to 16 meters. Individual dates provide only a minimum age for the stone tool technology preserved within the deposits. Each assemblage represents a time averaged collection. Bifacial tools distributed throughout the coarse gravel and sand unit can be assigned to an early phase of the Acheulean. This is the first absolute radiometric dated evidence for early Acheulean artefacts in South Africa that have been found outside of the early hominid sites of the Gauteng Province. These absolute dates also indicate that handaxe-using hominids inhabited southern Africa as early as their counterparts in East Africa. The simultaneous appearance of the Acheulean in different parts of the continent implies relatively rapid technology development and the widespread use of large cutting tools in the African continent by ca 1.6Ma.

PMID:
19101709
DOI:
10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.09.006
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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