Age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus determined with 26Al/10Be burial dating
Shen, GJ (Shen, Guanjun)[ 1 ] ; Gao, X (Gao, Xing)[ 2 ] ; Gao, B (Gao, Bin)[ 1 ] ; Granger, DE (Granger, Darryl E.)[ 3 ]
The age of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus, commonly known as 'Peking Man', has long been pursued, but has remained problematic owing to the lack of suitable dating methods(1-7). Here we report cosmogenic Al-26/Be-10 burial dating of quartz sediments and artefacts from the lower strata of Locality 1 in the southwestern suburb of Beijing, China, where early representatives of Zhoukoudian Homo erectus were discovered. This study marks the first radioisotopic dating of any early hominin site in China beyond the range of mass spectrometric U-series dating. The weighted mean of six meaningful age measurements, 0.77 +/- 0.08 million years (Myr, mean +/- s.e.m.), provides the best age estimate for lower cultural layers 7-10. Together with previously reported U-series dating of speleothem calcite(3) and palaeomagnetic stratigraphy(4), as well as sedimentological considerations(8,9), these layers may be further correlated to S6-S7 in Chinese loess stratigraphy or marine isotope stages (MIS) 17-19, in the range of similar to 0.68 to 0.78 Myr ago. These ages are substantially older than previously supposed and may imply early hominin's presence at the site in northern China through a relatively mild glacial period corresponding to MIS 18.