Why Is Radiocarbon Dating Important To Archaeology?

The 'Lucy' fossil rewrote the story of humanity

why is dating so important for paleo anthropologists and archaeologists

Therefore, radiocarbon dates need to be calibrated with other dating techniques to ensure accuracy. We can not only learn about people of the past, but we can learn about ourselves. Mutations are the most important source of variety on which natural selection depends and operates. He recovered a left lower molar that Black identified as unmistakably human it compared favorably to the previous find made by Zdansky , and subsequently coined it Sinanthropus pekinensis. Archaeology, as we all now know, is the study of human past and culture by means of what they left behind.

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The spear points would typically be made by chipping a single flake from each side of the point. I have always cherished the notion relating to the only way we can move foreword is through understanding the past. With exception of the depths of the ocean, humans of roamed the planet far and wide, and archaeology can show us how they survived and adapted. It has also differed from other sciences concerned with human social behavior especially sociology in its emphasis on data from non-literate peoples and archaeological exploration. Archived from the original Verbal tutorial possible on View image of The Taung Child Credit:

It is thought that savannahs were gradually opening up, so trees were spaced further apart. In line with this idea, recent evidence suggests that australopithecines' diet was changing. Studies of the remains of food trapped on preserved hominin teeth show that several species, including Lucy's, were expanding their diet around 3. Instead of mostly eating fruit from trees, they began to include grasses and sedges, and possibly meat.

This change in diet may have allowed them to range more widely, and to travel around more efficiently in a changing environment. Lucy herself may have been collecting eggs from a lake. Fossilised crocodile and turtle eggs were found near her skeleton, leading to suggestions that she died while foraging for them.

How did australopithecines process all these new foods? Later species like Homo erectus are known to have used simple stone tools, but no tools have ever been found from this far back.

However, in archaeologists uncovered animal bones with markings that seem to have been made by stone tools. That suggests Lucy and her relatives used stone tools to eat meat. There have since been heated debates over whether or not the marks were really made by tools. Spoor points out that modern chimpanzees use several tools, for instance to crack nuts. So if chimps can do it, Spoor says we might expect that A.

Chimpanzees learn about tool use from their mothers, and Lucy could have picked it up in a similar way. It would be more impressive if Lucy's species had also manufactured tools, but there is no evidence of that. View image of Mountain gorilla groups are led by males Credit: As well as learning skills from her mother, Lucy may well have learned from other A. Later fossil finds from the Hadar area, and comparisons with other primates, suggest that Lucy lived in a small social group.

Chimpanzees also live in groups of a few dozen individuals, and A. Lucy was small compared to males of her species. That has led some researchers to suggest that her society was male-dominated. It may even have been polygamous, like gorilla groups today. In general, males are only significantly larger than females in species where one male can control several females.

So Lucy may have lived in a group controlled by one dominant male, who had "a harem, or group of females around it," says Spoor. It also seems that Lucy's childhood was much shorter than ours, and that she had to fend for herself from a young age.

We know that Lucy was a fully-grown adult, because she had wisdom teeth and her bones had fused. But unlike modern humans, she seems to have grown to full size very quickly, and was only about 12 years old when she died.

In line with that, a study of a 3-year-old A. View image of Which of these hominins were our direct ancestors? All in all, Lucy looks like a halfway house between apes and humans. She was ape-like in appearance and brain size, but she could walk upright like more advanced hominins that lived later. So where exactly does she fit into our family tree? When she was discovered, Lucy was hailed as the oldest direct ancestor of modern humans.

Lucy had closed a gap in our knowledge. It now looks like Lucy did not take us as close to our common ancestor with chimps as everyone thought.

The latest genetic studies suggest we actually split from chimpanzees much earlier, perhaps as much as 13 million years ago.

If that is true, the 3-million-year-old Lucy arrived quite late in the story of human evolution. Older fossils, such as the 4.

But a bigger problem for the idea that A. There were many species of early hominin, often living side by side and possibly even interbreeding. When Lucy was found, about seven early hominins were known.

Now there are at least We simply don't know which ones eventually led to Homo sapiens, and which were evolutionary dead ends. View image of Australopithecus sediba, discovered in Credit: It is not even clear where in Africa modern humans evolved.

Lucy suggested that Ethiopia was a crucial site. But in another species of Australopithecus , A. It lived around 2 million years ago, around when the Homo genus first emerged. The Taung Child also hailed from the same area, so the find suggested that South Africa could have been our species' birthplace.

Despite this, White says Lucy's species is still the best candidate for a direct ancestor, but that more fossil evidence from that time is needed. Other species like Kenyanthropus platyops , which lived 3. It could also be a fossil that we haven't found yet. Spoor is even more cautious and says we may never find our true ancestor, because we will only ever find a fraction of life that once existed.

But Lucy certainly comes "pretty close", he says. View image of A replica of Lucy's skull Credit: Lucy's discovery marked a turning point in our understanding of human evolution. Even today scientists are still learning from her. Paleoanthropologists can visit her in Ethiopia's National Museum in Addis Ababa, to run further analyses using new technologies. According to Johanson, perhaps her most important contribution was to "spark" a wave of research that has led to the discovery of many new species, like Ardipithecus and A.

The number of known species has more than doubled since Lucy, but many parts of the story still need to be filled in, says Johanson. Thanks to all these discoveries, we now know that the evolutionary process that led to us was not linear.

Huxley convincingly illustrated many of the similarities and differences between humans and apes in his book Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. By the time Darwin published his own book on the subject, Descent of Man , it was already a well-known interpretation of his theory—and the interpretation which made the theory highly controversial.

Even many of Darwin's original supporters such as Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Lyell balked at the idea that human beings could have evolved their apparently boundless mental capacities and moral sensibilities through natural selection. Prior to the general acceptance of Africa as the root of genus Homo , 19th-century naturalists sought the origin of humans in Asia.

So-called "dragon bones" fossil bones and teeth from Chinese apothecary shops were known, but it was not until the early 20th century that German paleontologist, Max Schlosser , first described a single human tooth from Beijing. Although Schlosser was very cautious, identifying the tooth only as "? Eleven years later, the Swedish geologist Johan Gunnar Andersson was sent to China as a mining advisor and soon developed an interest in "dragon bones". It was he who, in , discovered the sites around Zhoukoudian , a village about 50 kilometers southwest of Beijing.

However, because of the sparse nature of the initial finds, the site was abandoned. Work did not resume until , when the Austrian paleontologist, Otto Zdansky , fresh with his doctoral degree from Vienna, came to Beijing to work for Andersson.

Zdansky conducted short-term excavations at Locality 1 in and , and recovered only two teeth of significance one premolar and one molar that he subsequently described, cautiously, as "?

With that done, Zdansky returned to Austria and suspended all fieldwork. News of the fossil hominin teeth delighted the scientific community in Beijing, and plans for developing a larger, more systematic project at Zhoukoudian were soon formulated. In late , Black submitted a proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation seeking financial support for systematic excavation at Zhoukoudian and the establishment of an institute for the study of human biology in China.

The Zhoukoudian Project came into existence in the spring of , and two years later, the Cenozoic Research Laboratory of the Geological Survey of China was formally established.

Being the first institution of its kind, the Cenozoic Laboratory opened up new avenues for the study of paleogeology and paleontology in China. The first of the major project finds are attributed to the young Swedish paleontologist, Anders Birger Bohlin , then serving as the field advisor at Zhoukoudian.

He recovered a left lower molar that Black identified as unmistakably human it compared favorably to the previous find made by Zdansky , and subsequently coined it Sinanthropus pekinensis.

Yet within a little more than two years, in the winter of , Pei Wenzhong , then the field director at Zhoukoudian, unearthed the first complete calvaria of Peking Man. Excavations continued at the site and remained fruitful until the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in The decade-long research yielded a wealth of faunal and lithic materials, as well as hominin fossils. These included 5 more complete calvaria, 9 large cranial fragments, 6 facial fragments, 14 partial mandibles, isolated teeth, and 11 postcranial elements—estimated to represent as least 40 individuals.

Evidence of fire, marked by ash lenses and burned bones and stones, were apparently also present, [9] although recent studies have challenged this view. Following the loss of the Peking Man materials in late , scientific endeavors at Zhoukoudian slowed, primarily because of lack of funding.

Frantic search for the missing fossils took place, and continued well into the s. But with political instability and social unrest brewing in China, beginning in , and major discoveries at Olduvai Gorge and East Turkana Koobi Fora , the paleoanthropological spotlight shifted westward to East Africa.

Although China re-opened its doors to the West in the late s, national policy calling for self-reliance, coupled with a widened language barrier, thwarted all the possibilities of renewed scientific relationships. Indeed, Harvard anthropologist K. Chang noted, "international collaboration in developing nations very often a disguise for Western domination became a thing of the past" In South Africa, a notable and rare find came to light in In a limestone quarry at Taung , Professor Raymond Dart discovered a remarkably well-preserved juvenile specimen face and brain endocast , which he named Australopithecus africanus Australopithecus meaning "Southern Ape".

In addition, the specimen exhibited short canine teeth , and the foramen magnum was more anteriorly placed, suggesting a bipedal mode of locomotion. All of these traits convinced Dart that the Taung child was a bipedal human ancestor, a transitional form between ape and human.

Another 20 years passed before Dart's claims were taken seriously, following the discovery of additional australopith fossils in Africa that resembled his specimen. The prevailing view of the time was that a large brain evolved before bipedality. It was thought that intelligence on par with modern humans was a prerequisite to bipedalism.

The factors that drove human evolution are still the subject of controversy. Dart's savanna hypothesis suggested that bipedalism was caused by a move to the savanna for hunting. However recent evidence suggests that bipedalism existed before the savannas. The aquatic ape hypothesis , developed in response to the perceived flaws of the savanna hypothesis, suggests that wading, swimming and diving for food exerted a strong evolutionary effect on the ancestors of the genus Homo and is in part responsible for the split between the common ancestors of humans and other great apes.

It is not well accepted by most researchers in paleoanthropology. Today, the australopiths are considered to be the last common ancestors leading to genus Homo , the group to which modern humans belong. Both australopiths and Homo sapiens are part of the tribe Hominini , but recent morphological data have brought into doubt the position of A. The australopiths were originally grouped based on size as either gracile or robust.

The robust variety of Australopithecus has since been renamed Paranthropus P. In the s, when the robust specimens were first described by Robert Broom , the Paranthropus genus was used. During the s, the robust variety was moved into Australopithecus.

Imsges: why is dating so important for paleo anthropologists and archaeologists

why is dating so important for paleo anthropologists and archaeologists

The first of the major project finds are attributed to the young Swedish paleontologist, Anders Birger Bohlin , then serving as the field advisor at Zhoukoudian.

why is dating so important for paleo anthropologists and archaeologists

By this time Johanson thought the skeleton was female, because it was small. Though Darwin's first book on evolution did not address the specific question of human evolution—"light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history," was all Darwin wrote on the subject—the implications of evolutionary theory were clear to contemporary readers.

why is dating so important for paleo anthropologists and archaeologists

Maybe this climate change is just a phase similar to what we have gone through before. Carbon, Carbon, and Carbon In addition, fossil evidence is often used for the concern of the ages of rock strata. National Geographic Society, In line with this idea, recent evidence suggests that australopithecines' diet was changing. Starbuck 31 May Schwartz, Frank Salomon