Scientists provide more accurate age for the El Sidron cave Neanderthals

April 2, 2013, Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT)
This shows scientists working at the El Sidrón cave (Spain). Credit: University of Oviedo

A study has been able to accurately determine the age of the Neanderthal remains found in the El Sidrón cave (Asturias, Spain) for which previous studies had provided inexact measurements. The application of a pre-treatment to reduce contamination by modern carbon has managed to lower the margin of error from 40,000 to just 3,200 years.

El Sidrón cave in Asturias (northern Spain) is one of the westernmost Neanderthal sites on the and contains a large amount of this type of remains in addition to the they used. Now, thanks to the development of new analytical procedures, a research team co-ordinated by the University of Oviedo (Spain) has managed to provide a more accurate dating for these Neanderthal populations in Asturias.

The age of the El Sidrón remains could prove to be an important piece of information in the discussion about when the transition from Neanderthal to Homo sapiens took place in Europe. "Some previous datings that stated the remains were only 10,000 years old are inconsistent and cannot be considered credible. They would be highly disputed in the discussion about when Homo neanderthalensis became extinct," as explained to SINC by Marco de la Rasilla, co-ordinator of the research team.

In order to adjust the age of these Neanderthals, De La Rasilla and his team compared previous results from the French Climate and Environmental Sciences Laboratory (LSCE, its acronym in French), with new data obtained by the Oxford (ORAU). The datings provided by both laboratories have enabled them to confirm that the from the Asturian cave lived some 49,000 years ago.

"The previous measurement of 10,000 years for this episode was due to a contamination issue," De La Rasilla explained. Carbon-14 is the most widely-used dating method in archaeology and it measures the age of the carbon found in an object. If the sample becomes contaminated with modern carbon or other substances then the object may appear younger than it actually is.

The new carbon-14 dating in Oxford's ORAU laboratory was preceded by a highly sophisticated ultrafiltration treatment to reduce contamination as much as possible. The results revealed that the remains are between 45,200 and 51,600 years old.

The weighted average between this data and the data obtained previously by the French laboratory, where the sample underwent a different pre-treatment with ninhydrin to remove , places the Neanderthal inhabitants of El Sidrón 49,000 years ago. "The fact that two separate laboratories using different treatments came up with similar figures makes this date even more reliable" De La Rasilla concluded.

Explore further: Neanderthals died out earlier than originally believed

More information: R. E. Wood, T. F. G. Higham, T. de Torres, N. Tisnerat-Laborde, H. Valladas, J. E. Ortiz, C. Lalueza-Fox, S. Sánchez-Moral, J. C. Cañaveras, A. Rosas, D. Santamaría, M. De La Rasilla. 2013. "A new date for the Neanderthals from El Sidrón cave (Asturias, northern Spain)". Archaeometry, 55, 1, pp.148-158. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.2012.00671.x

T. de Torres, J. E. Ortiz, R. Grün, S. Eggins, H. Valladas, N. Mercier, N. Tisnérat-Laborde, R. Julià, V. Soler, E. Martínez, S. Sánchez-Moral, J. C. Cañaveras, J. Lario, E. Badal, A. Rosas, D. Santamaría, M. de la Rasilla, J. Fortea. 2010. "Dating of the hominid (Homo Neanderthalensis) remains accumulation from El Sidrón cave (Borines, Asturias, North Spain): an example of multi-methodological approach to the dating of Upper Pleistocene sites". Archaeometry, 52, 4, pp. 680-705. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.2009.00671.x

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1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 02, 2013
Not buying it.

You're basically just guessing which atoms to count and which ones not to count. BS.

You can't date this with Carbon because every kind of microbe could have altered carbon composition, and not to mention "modern" or at least "more recent" air getting in the cave for an unknown period of time before it was sealed.
4 / 5 (4) Apr 02, 2013
Creationists shouldn't comment on science, it is hilarious and makes deconverts from religion, see Dawkins's Convert's Corner.

Even reading the article, which obviously the creationist couldn't waste energy on, it is seen that it is choosing a conventional data filtering method and then it checking with different analysis equipment.
1 / 5 (4) Apr 02, 2013
But apparently the difference between 10.000 years and 40.000 years makes no problem in carbon radioisotope dating...
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2013
Not buying it.

You're basically just guessing which atoms to count and which ones not to count. BS.

The new carbon-14 dating in Oxford's ORAU laboratory was preceded by a highly sophisticated ultrafiltration treatment to reduce contamination as much as possible.

I'm just guessing here, but I'll bet you have no idea how the treatment process used works.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2013
Lurker... you're just an idiot.
"Waterripples" aka Valeria aka 100 others nicks... Another one. Limit yourself to your usual aether and cold fusion comments. We are used to them.

And I use those words because you and the likes offend me and I'm really tired of reading this sort of comments.

Good job for the research team.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 03, 2013
"I'm offended with every OT comment here"
Yet you try to wrap every single article up in your aether and water ripples or "in awt" you possibley can. Do you see the contradiction?

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