U-series and ESR analyses of bones and teeth relating to the human burials from Skhul

Rainer Grün, Chris Stringer, Frank McDermott, Roger Nathan, Naomi Porat, Steve Robertson, Lois Taylor, Graham Mortimer, Stephen Eggins, Malcolm McCulloch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

259 Scopus citations


In order to resolve long-standing issues surrounding the age of the Skhul early modern humans, new analyses have been conducted, including the dating of four well-provenanced fossils by ESR and U-series. If the Skhul burials took place within a relatively short time span, then the best age estimate lies between 100 and 135 ka. This result agrees very well with TL ages obtained from burnt flint of 119±18 ka (Mercier et al., 1993). However, we cannot exclude the possibility that the material associated with the Skhul IX burial is older than those of Skhul II and Skhul V. These and other recent age estimates suggest that the three burial sites, Skhul, Qafzeh and Tabun are broadly contemporaneous, falling within the time range of 100 to 130 ka. The presence of early representatives of both early modern humans and Neanderthals in the Levant during Marine Isotope Stage 5 inevitably complicates attempts at segregating these populations by date or archaeological association. Nevertheless, it does appear that the oldest known symbolic burials are those of early modern humans at Skhul and Qafzeh. This supports the view that, despite the associated Middle Palaeolithic technology, elements of modern human behaviour were represented at Skhul and Qafzeh prior to 100 ka.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-334
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • ESR dating
  • Early modern humans
  • Skhul
  • Skhul II
  • Skhul IX
  • Skhul V
  • U-series dating


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