Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Letter
  • Published:

ESR-dating of the fossil hominid cranium from Petralona Cave, Greece


The age of the hominid cranium discovered in 1960 in a limestone cave near Petralona (Greece) is a continuing cause of controversy. The age of the skull, which was apparently encrusted by brown calcite soon after the death of the individual concerned, has been variously estimated at between 70,0001 and 700,0002 yr. Here we show using electron spin resonance (ESR) measurements of the calcite encrustation and of bone fragments that the age of the Petralona hominid lies between 160,000 and 240,000 yr. We also demonstrate, by trace element analysis, that the composition of the calcite encrustation is the same as that of the very top of the travertine floor.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Poulianos, A. N. Archaeology 24, 6–11 (1971).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Poulianos, A. N. Anthropos 7, 7–11; 13–29 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  3. Sickenberg, O. Geol. Geophys. Res. Inst. Athens 9, 1–16 (1964).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Sickenberg, O. Ann. Geol. Pays. Hellen. 23, 230–264 (1971).

    Google Scholar 

  5. Hennig, G. J. thesis, Univ. Cologne (1979).

  6. Ikeya, M. Anthropos 7, 143–151 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  7. Schwarcz, H. P., Liritzis, Y. & Dixon, A. Anthropos 7, 152–173 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Hennig, G. J., Bangert, U., Herr, W. & Poulianos, A. N. Anthropos 7, 215–241 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Liritzis, Y. Anthropos 7, 215–241 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Ikeya, M. Science 207, 977–979 (1980).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Bangert, U. & Hennig, G. J. PACT J. 3, 281–289 (1979).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Wintle, A. G. Can. J. Earth Sci. 15, 1977–1986 (1978).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Zeller, E. J., Levy, P. W. & Mattern, P. L. Proc. Symp. Radioactive Dating and Low Level Counting, 531–540 (IAEA, Vienna, 1967).

    Google Scholar 

  14. Ikeya, M. Nature 255, 48–50 (1975).

    Article  ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Ikeya, M. Archaeometry 20, 147–158 (1978).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Harmon, R. S., Thompson, P., Schwarcz, H. & Ford, D. Nat. Speleol. Soc. Bull. 27, 21–33 (1975).

    Google Scholar 

  17. Hennig, G. J., Bangert, U. & Herr, W. Br. Mus. Occas. Pap. 21, 73–78 (1980).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Schwarcz, H. P. Archaeometry 22, 3–24 (1980).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Wintle, A. G. J. Electrostat. 3, 281–288 (1977).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Liritzis, Y. & Poulianos, A. N. Anthropos 7, 252–259 (1980).

    Google Scholar 

  21. Bell, W. T. Archaeometry 18, 107–111 (1976).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Bell, W. T. Archaeometry 21, 243–245 (1979).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hennig, G., Herr, W., Weber, E. et al. ESR-dating of the fossil hominid cranium from Petralona Cave, Greece. Nature 292, 533–536 (1981).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing