Direct dating of Early Upper Palaeolithic human remains from Mladeč

Abstract

The human fossil assemblage from the Mladeč Caves in Moravia (Czech Republic)1 has been considered to derive from a middle or later phase of the Central European Aurignacian period on the basis of archaeological remains (a few stone artefacts and organic items such as bone points, awls, perforated teeth)2, despite questions3 of association between the human fossils and the archaeological materials and concerning the chronological implications of the limited archaeological remains4. The morphological variability in the human assemblage, the presence of apparently archaic features in some specimens, and the assumed early date of the remains have made this fossil assemblage pivotal in assessments of modern human emergence within Europe5,6,7. We present here the first successful direct accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon dating of five representative human fossils from the site. We selected sample materials from teeth and from one bone for 14C dating. The four tooth samples yielded uncalibrated ages of 31,000 14C years before present, and the bone sample (an ulna) provided an uncertain more-recent age. These data are sufficient to confirm that the Mladeč human assemblage is the oldest cranial, dental and postcranial assemblage of early modern humans in Europe and is therefore central to discussions of modern human emergence in the northwestern Old World and the fate of the Neanderthals.

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Figure 1: Dated human fossil specimens from Mladeč.
Figure 2: Documentation of the dated specimens showing the sampled parts in red.

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Acknowledgements

We thank D. Frayer and G. Kurat for comments on an earlier version of this paper. We also thank H. Prossinger and other colleagues for discussions. Furthermore we thank W. Reichmann for the photographic documentation, R. Mühl and A. Walch for technical support, and S. Lehr for his help in sample preparation.

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Correspondence to Eva M. Wild or Maria Teschler-Nicola.

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Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Table S1

Radiocarbon ages determined for the animal remains from the Mladec site. (DOC 34 kb)

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Wild, E., Teschler-Nicola, M., Kutschera, W. et al. Direct dating of Early Upper Palaeolithic human remains from Mladeč. Nature 435, 332–335 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03585

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