Editor's Summary

12 March 2009

Older and 'colder' dates for classic Homo erectus fossils


The Homo erectus known familiarly as Peking Man holds an important place in palaeoanthropology and in the public imagination, not only as one of the earliest hominin discoveries but also because of where it was found. The Peking Man fossils were found during the 1930s in the classic locality of Longgushan ('dragon-bone hill') near the village of Zhoukoudian. The age of the deposits has since been hotly debated, but the issue has now been resolved using a recently developed technique that dates the cave sediments by measuring the burial of cosmogenic aluminium-26 and beryllium-10. Their age computes to about 770,000 years old — nearly 300,000 years earlier than usually thought. This implies that hominids were there during some rather chilly periods and raises doubts over some accepted ideas about the migration of early hominids northwards only in clement, interglacial times.

AuthorsMaking the paper: Guanjun Shen & Darryl Granger

Isotopes in quartz reveal the age of China's Peking Man.

doi:10.1038/7235123a

News and ViewsPalaeoanthropology: Asian Homo erectus converges in time

Re-evaluation of the age of Zhoukoudian, a prominent site of Homo erectus occupation in China, prompts a rethink of the species' distribution in both the temperate north and the equatorial south of east Asia.

Russell L. Ciochon & E. Arthur Bettis III

doi:10.1038/458153a

LetterAge of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus determined with 26Al/10Be burial dating

Guanjun Shen, Xing Gao, Bin Gao & Darryl E. Granger

doi:10.1038/nature07741