Research Article

Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa

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Science  03 Apr 2020:
Vol. 368, Issue 6486, eaaw7293
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw7293
  • The DNH 134 H. erectus cranium from South Africa.PHOTO: JESSE MARTIN, REANUD JOANNES-BOYAU, ANDY I. R. HERRIES
  • Fig. 1 The Location of the Drimolen palaeocave complex.

    (A) The location of Drimolen in comparison with other H. erectus sites worldwide and their approximate maximal age. (B) The location of Drimolen within South Africa in relation to other early hominin fossil sites and the Gauteng Malmani sites. (C) The location of Drimolen within the Gauteng Malmani in relation to other hominin sites. The Blaauwbank Stream Valley is represented by sites running from Bolt’s Farm (BF) to Kromdraai (KR). CP, Coopers D; STK, Sterkfontein (also contains Australopithecus); SWT, Swartkrans; RS, Rising Star; GV, Gladysvale; ML, Malapa; HG, Haasgat; GD, Gondolin. Colors indicate the predominant genus or species represented. (D) An aerial view of the Drimolen site and the relationship of the hominin-bearing DMQ (2.04 to 1.95 Ma) and nonhominin-bearing DMK (~2.61 Ma).

  • Fig. 2 The DNH 134 Homo aff. erectus neurocranium.

    (A) Superior view, anterior to the left. (B) Posterior view. (C) Right lateral view, anterior to right. (D) Left lateral view, anterior to the left. Scale bar, 10 mm.

  • Fig. 3 Endocranial volume estimation of DNH 134.

    (A) Endocranial landmark set used for extracellular volume (ECV) estimation. Each vertex of the surface is used as a landmark or semilandmark. Anatomical landmarks are shown as spheres, and curve semilandmarks are connected as black lines. (B to D) Measured versus predicted ECV [(B) regression-based, (C) pooled treatment planning system (TPS)–based, and (D) species-specific TPS-based estimates] for human (blue), H. erectus (red), gorillas (gray), orangutans (orange), and chimpanzees (green).

  • Fig. 4 Comparisons of the DNH 134 cranium with the Mojokerto juvenile H. erectus cranium.

    DNH 134 (red) superimposed on the Mojokerto cranium (gray) after scaling both specimens to the same bregma–inion length. (A) Left lateral view, anterior to left. (B) Superior view, anterior to left. (C) Posterior view.

  • Fig. 5 The DNH 152 Paranthropus robustus cranium.

    (A) Superior. (B) Posterior. (C) Right lateral. (D) Left lateral. (E) Right temporal. (F) Right orbit. (G) Left M1 occlusal. (H) Left M2 occlusal. (I) Left M1 buccal. (J) Left M2 buccal. (K) Right M1 and M2 buccal. (L) Right M1 and M2 occlusal. Scale bar, 10 mm.

  • Fig. 6 3D laser scan of DMQ.

    The locations of the hominin fossils DNH 7, DNH 134, and DNH 152 are shown relative to the main stratigraphic sections (Warthog Cave, Italian Job, Jangi, and Walls of Jericho) and features described. WC, Warthog Cave; CEA, Central Excavation Area; and WW, dolomite western wall of the palaeocavern.

  • Fig. 7 Warthog Cave section showing palaeomagnetic and U-Pb and sample locations.

    (A) Photograph and (B) section showing stratigraphy and geochronometric data. 1, dolomite bedrock; 2, flowstone (BFS); 3, clast-supported breccia (CSB); 4, sandstone/siltstone (WGSS); 5, recent decalcified sediment, mine dumps and displaced blocks; 6, U-Pb sample locations: BFS (DN39A; 2.673 ± 0.103 Ma old) and WCFS (DN09 1.789 ± 0.104 Ma old). Palaeomagnetic samples are indicated by black (normal polarity) and white (reversed polarity) circles.

  • Fig. 8 Jangi Buttress section depicting DNH 134 find locus.

    JB, Jangi Buttress; EB, Eurydice Block. 1, CSB, with skeleton-supported structure, large chert, and decalcified dolomite (gray dusty patches) blocks and preserved, microfauna-rich reddish layers. 2, MSB with unsorted chert and subordinate dolomite clasts (the lower half is decalcified). 3, Mining rubble filling void cut underneath Jangi Buttress. The dotted rectangle depicts DNH 134 Homo cranium dispersion area; DMQ-2 denotes the US-ESR date 2.041 ± 0.240 Ma ago (50 cm scale).

  • Fig. 9 Italian Job pinnacle.

    (A) Photograph and (B) section showing stratigraphy and geochronometric data. 1, dolomite bedrock; 2, MSB; 3, flowstone (WOJFS); 4, GSS; 5, decalcified sediment; 6, DMQ-3 denotes the US-ESR date 1.962 ± 0.107 Ma ago. The red circle indicates the DNH 152 Paranthropus skull location.

  • Fig. 10 Walls of Jericho pinnacle.

    (A) Photograph and (B) section showing stratigraphy, palaeomagnetic polarity, and geochronometric data. 1, dolomite bedrock; 2, wad and other dolomite weathering products; 3, BFS; 4, flowstone; 5, GSS, sandstone/siltstone; 6, GSS, coarse sandstone and fine gravel; 7, decalcified sediment; 8, WOJFS dated by means of U-Pb to 1.962 ± 0.107 Ma old. Palaeomagnetic data are indicated with black circles, normal polarity; gray circles, intermediate polarity; and white circles, reverse polarity. The yellow box shows the location of the micromorphology sample.

  • Fig. 11 Micromorphology of selected aspects of the DMQ infill.

    (A) High-resolution scan of thin section of CSB (main talus cone) sample MM26, from WW, showing loose microstructure (LMs), chert (Ch), and dolomite (Ds) clasts, reworked soil and sediment aggregates (SA), sometimes showing crust-like features probably reworked from sandstone and siltstone sediments. (B) CSB sample MM04 from WW, with clay aggregate stained by amorphous iron- and subordinately manganese-oxides. The bottom third is under crossed polarizers (XPL), showing poorly developed stipple-speckled b-fabric (white arrows) in unstained areas. (C) CSB sample MM01 from WC, with bone fragment (Bf), monocoth-like wood fragment (white arrow), wide pores originated by biological activity (BV). The bottom third of the panel is under XPL, showing anhedral sparite infills within pores. (D) Sample MM32 from WC. Void with “dusty” calcite coating (CC) probably derived from recrystallization of aragonite and subsequent sparitic anhedral calcite infilling (CI). (E) High-resolution scan of thin section of MSB (intermediate facies) sample MM18L from Italian Job; sequence of fining-upwards sequences with centimeter-size clasts at the base of each sequence; the bracket highlights the sequence in (F). (F) Mosaic of microphotographs under plane polarized light (PPL) (left) and XPL (right), showing a fining upward sequence with thin clay crusts interbedded within the fine part. (G) High-resolution scan of thin section of GSS (distal facies) sample MM12 from WOJ (above WOJFS), with fine grainsize fining-upward sequences (black brackets), interbedded with a thin flowstone crust (FS); the red and yellow squares indicate respectively the areas in (H) and (I). (H) Very fine silt and clay crusts (Cr) topping fining upward sequences. (I) Columnar calcite flowstone (FS) with multiple short growth hiatus marked with detrital caps on crystal tips. The flowstone is overlain by a fining upward sequence terminated by a clay crust (white arrow). (Right) Under XPL.

  • Fig. 12 Micromorphology of the WOJFS.

    (A) Aspect and stratigraphy of the ~1.95-Ma-old WOJFS, as in the northern side of the Walls of Jericho pinnacle, showing that WOJFS formed during a stop in clastic deposition and is not intrusive into GSS. FBU1 and FBU2, flowstone-bounded units 1 and 2 (Fig. 14). The yellow rectangle indicates micromorphology samples. Scale bar, 5 cm. (B) Short-range picture of the micromorphology sample detachment niche inside yellow rectangle of (A). BFS, basal flowstone. (C) Scan of thin section showing the distinct nature of sedimentation below and above WOJFS, with several fine speleothem crusts alternating with silt before the formation of the main flowstone. Colored rectangles indicate spots described in (D) blue; (E) green; (F) amber; (G) black; (H) red. (D) Top of WOJFS and upper contact (white arrow) with the overlying USS. Black arrow indicates subhedral sparitic calcite with rombohedron faces indicating upward crystal growth direction. The layer of anhedral calcite crystals between the arrows is recrystallized, and the top surface has undergone dissolution because of contact with siltstone. PPL, plane polarized light. (E) Same as in (D), showing a wide gulf-like dissolution feature (DF) into the upper surface of WOJFS layer, because of contact with subsequently deposited silt. White arrows indicate remains of the upper layer (PPL). (F) High magnification of calcite within WOJFS, showing the remnant needle-like aragonite (black arrows) that was critical to the successful dating of the sample by U-Pb (PPL). (G) Thin flowstone crust (FS) underlying the main WOJFS, showing preserved upward-growth pattern. Lens-like voids were subsequently infilled with anhedral calcite (CIV). (H) Precipitation of anhedral calcite spar (CIV) within channel voids.

  • Fig. 13 Palaeomagnetic data from DMQ.

    (A to F) (Top) Representative palaeomagnetic data plots for DMQ (vector, stereographic, and demagnetization spectra). Open symbols on stereographic plots indicate negative inclination, and closed symbols indicate positive inclination. (Bottom) Mineral magnetic results for the DMQ. (A) DN09b normal polarity >2.61-Ma-old basal flowstone. (B) DN27 normal polarity siltstone from the top of the Walls of Jericho. (C) DNFS3 intermediate polarity ~1.95-Ma-old WOJFS. (D) DN29 reversed polarity siltstone from base of the Walls of Jericho. (E) DN01 reversed polarity siltstone from the Warthog Cave section. (F) DN10 rejected basal flowstone sample with normal trend but with MAD > 15. (G) Unmixed coercivity contributions to a representative backfield curve, with labeled remanence coercivities for each component (comp.). (H) FORC diagram, with smoothing parameters listed (for example, Sc0) and a hysteresis loop insert. (I) thermomagnetic curve with Curie temperature estimate.

  • Fig. 14 Composite stratigraphy for DMQ.

    The stratigraphic sections and dates (million years ago) for DMQ compared against the Geomagnetic Polarity time scale and other early hominins in South Africa as well as global H. erectus sites. WC, Warthog Cave; JB, Jangi Buttress; IJP, Italian Job pinnacle; WOJ, Walls of Jericho; m, meters below or above datum.

  • Table 1 Palaeomagnetic data, associated US-ESR and U-Pb ages and age ranges for the various deposits at DMQ.

    Dec, declination; Inc, inclination; K, K parameter; Plat, palaeolatitude; WC, Warthog Cave; WOJ, Walls of Jericho; FS, flowstone; SS, sandstone and siltstone; N, normal; I, intermediate; R, reversed.

    SampleLocationDepthTypeDecIncKPlatPolarityU-Pb/ESR (Ma)Combined date (Ma)Fossil
    DN09WC–3.90FS16.5–63.7141.466.5N1.79 ± 0.101.89 to 1.78
    DN27WOJ0.04SS11.7–23.240.372.3N 1.95 to 1.78
    DN24WOJ–0.45SS16.9–21.0149.368.0N 1.95 to 1.78
    DN26WOJ–0.59SS42.7–12.064.544.7I ~1.95
    DNFS3WOJ–0.78FS242.1–53.862.2–5.8I1.96 ± 0.11~1.95
    DN19WOJ–1.02SS222.328.6174.7–48.4I1.97 ± 0.15~1.95
    DN21WOJ–1.55SS258.229.4337.6–17.0I ~1.95
    DN29WOJ–1.71SS153.838.341.4–65.7R 2.28 to 1.95
    DN08WOJ–1.90SS156.929.656.0–61.6R 2.28 to 1.95
    DN01WC–3.33SS167.417.1139.0–69.0R 2.28 to 1.95DNH 152
    DN03WC–4.36SS188.426.7180.7–75.8R2.04 ± 0.242.28 to 1.95DNH 134
    DN39WC–6.40 to -80FS26.5–29.1156.963.1N2.67 ± 0.102.77 to 2.61
  • Table 2 US-ESR dating data for DMQ-2 and DMQ-3 fragments.

    SampleDMQ-2DMQ-3
    Enamel
                Dose (Gy)*1814 ± 592414 ± 76
                U [parts per million (ppm)]†1.43 ± 0.152.07 ± 0.18
                234U/238U†1.2841 ± 0.05871.0886 ± 0.0369
                230Th/234U†0.9220 ± 0.02560.9731 ± 0.0155
                Thickness (m)1354 ± 1891551 ± 320
                Water (%)3 ± 13 ± 1
    Dentine
                U (ppm)†17.30 ± 1.1119.31 ± 1.05
                234U/238U†1.4110 ± 0.02371.4183 ± 0.0109
                230Th/234U†0.9558 ± 0.02010.8822 ± 0.0278
                Water (%)5 ± 35 ± 3
    Sediment
                U (ppm)1.9 ± 0.51.9 ± 0.5
                Th (ppm)3.02 ± 0.23.02 ± 0.2
                K (%)0.29 ± 0.050.29 ± 0.05
                Water (%)15 ± 1015 ± 10
    External dose rate sediment
                Beta dose (μGy a−1)44 ± 938 ± 8
                Gamma dose (μGy a−1)323 ± 39323 ± 39
                Cosmic (μGy a−1)97 ± 5097 ± 50
    Combine US-ESR age
                Internal dose rate (μGy a−1)‡291 ± 80701 ± 76
                Beta dose dentine (μGy a−1)‡134 ± 3769 ± 8
                P enamel‡0.64 ± 0.13–0.45 ± 0.01
                P dentine‡0.03 ± 0.021.46 ± 0.15
                Total dose rate (μGy a−1)‡889 ± 1091228 ± 100
    Age (thousand years)‡2041 ± 2401965 ± 147

    *Dose-equivalent (DE) obtained using McDoseE 2.0, with SSE [from (101)].

    †Uranium concentration values were obtained by means of LA-MC-ICPMS and LA-ICPMS on both teeth and both dental tissues.

    ‡The age was calculated by use of (50), with the dose rate conversion factors of (110), and the enamel and dentine density of 2.95 and 2.85, respectively, from (111).

    • Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa

      Andy I. R. Herries, Jesse M. Martin, A. B. Leece, Justin W. Adams, Giovanni Boschian, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Tara R. Edwards, Tom Mallett, Jason Massey, Ashleigh Murszewski, Simon Neubauer, Robyn Pickering, David Strait, Brian J. Armstrong, Stephanie Baker, Matthew V. Caruana, Tim Denham, John Hellstrom, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, Simon Mokobane, Paul Penzo-Kajewski, Douglass S. Rovinsky, Gary T. Schwartz, Rhiannon C. Stammers, Coen Wilson, Jon Woodhead, Colin Menter

      Materials/Methods, Supplementary Text, Tables, Figures, and/or References

      Download Supplement
      • Tables S1 to S3
      • Movie S1

      Images, Video, and Other Media

      Movie S1
      Movie describing the Drimolen site, its stratigraphy, sampling locations and age.
    • Contemporaneity of Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and early Homo erectus in South Africa

      Andy I. R. Herries, Jesse M. Martin, A. B. Leece, Justin W. Adams, Giovanni Boschian, Renaud Joannes-Boyau, Tara R. Edwards, Tom Mallett, Jason Massey, Ashleigh Murszewski, Simon Neubauer, Robyn Pickering, David Strait, Brian J. Armstrong, Stephanie Baker, Matthew V. Caruana, Tim Denham, John Hellstrom, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, Simon Mokobane, Paul Penzo-Kajewski, Douglass S. Rovinsky, Gary T. Schwartz, Rhiannon C. Stammers, Coen Wilson, Jon Woodhead, Colin Menter

      Materials/Methods, Supplementary Text, Tables, Figures, and/or References

      Download Supplement
      • Tables S1 to S3
      • Movie S1

      Images, Video, and Other Media

      Movie S1
      Movie describing the Drimolen site, its stratigraphy, sampling locations and age.

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