News FocusProfile: Zenobia Jacobs and Richard Roberts

Dating Duo Illuminates Modern Humans' Journey

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Science  06 May 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6030, pp. 658-661
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6030.658-a

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Zenobia Jacobs and Richard Roberts of the University of Wollongong in Australia are experts in the technique of optically stimulated luminescence dating. That method determines how long buried sand grains have been hidden from sunlight and can peer back 200,000 or more years in time. Jacobs and Roberts, who married last December—"You can call us the double daters," Roberts says—and the powerful method they wield (see sidebar), are much in demand to help settle a wide range of questions in archaeology: When did modern humans begin to use symbols? When, and along what routes, did they leave Africa?