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U-Pb Isotopic Age of the StW 573 Hominid from Sterkfontein, South Africa

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Science  08 Dec 2006:
Vol. 314, Issue 5805, pp. 1592-1594
DOI: 10.1126/science.1132916

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Abstract

Sterkfontein cave, South Africa, has yielded an australopith skeleton, StW 573, whose completeness has excited great interest in paleoanthropology. StW 573, or “Little Foot,” was found 25 meters below the surface in the Silberberg Grotto. 238U-206Pb measurements on speleothems immediately above and below the fossil remains, corrected for initial 234U disequilibrium, yield ages of 2.17 ± 0.17 million years ago (Ma) and Math Ma, respectively, indicating an age for StW 573 of close to 2.2 Ma. This age is in contrast to an age of ∼3.3 Ma suggested by magnetochronology and ages of ∼4 Ma based on 10Be and 26Al, but it is compatible with a faunal age range of 4 to 2 Ma.

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