A 14C age calibration curve for the last 60 ka: the Greenland-Hulu U/Th timescale and its impact on understanding the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in Western Eurasia.

Universität zu Köln, Institut für Ur- und Frühgeschichte, Radiocarbon Laboratory, Weyertal 125, 50923 Köln, Germany.
Journal of Human Evolution (Impact Factor: 3.87). 11/2008; 55(5):772-81. DOI: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2008.08.017
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT This paper combines the data sets available today for 14C-age calibration of the last 60 ka. By stepwise synchronization of paleoclimate signatures, each of these sets of 14C-ages is compared with the U/Th-dated Chinese Hulu Cave speleothem records, which shows global paleoclimate change in high temporal resolution. By this synchronization we have established an absolute-dated Greenland-Hulu chronological framework, against which global paleoclimate data can be referenced, extending the 14C-age calibration curve back to the limits of the radiocarbon method. Based on this new, U/Th-based Greenland(Hulu) chronology, we confirm that the radiocarbon timescale underestimates calendar ages by several thousand years during most of Oxygen Isotope Stage 3. Major atmospheric 14C variations are observed for the period of the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition, which has significant implications for dating the demise of the last Neandertals. The early part of "the transition" (with 14C ages > 35.0 ka 14C BP) coincides with the Laschamp geomagnetic excursion. This period is characterized by highly-elevated atmospheric 14C levels. The following period ca. 35.0-32.5 ka 14C BP shows a series of distinct large-scale 14C age inversions and extended plateaus. In consequence, individual archaeological 14C dates older than 35.0 ka 14C BP can be age-calibrated with relatively high precision, while individual dates in the interval 35.0-32.5 ka 14C BP are subject to large systematic age-'distortions,' and chronologies based on large data sets will show apparent age-overlaps of up to ca. 5,000 cal years. Nevertheless, the observed variations in past 14C levels are not as extreme as previously proposed ("Middle to Upper Paleolithic dating anomaly"), and the new chronological framework leaves ample room for application of radiocarbon dating in the age-range 45.0-25.0 ka 14C BP at high temporal resolution.

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: A late Quaternary pollen record from northern Sakhalin Island (51.34°N, 142.14°E, 15 m a.s.l.) spanning the last 43.7 ka was used to reconstruct regional climate dynamics and vegetation distribution by using the modern analogue technique (MAT). The long-term trends of the reconstructed mean annual temperature (TANN) and precipitation (PANN), and total tree cover are generally in line with key palaeoclimate records from the North Atlantic region and the Asian monsoon domain. TANN largely follows the fluctuations in solar summer insolation at 55°N. During Marine Isotope Stage (MIS) 3, TANN and PANN were on average 0.2 °C and 700 mm, respectively, thus very similar to late Holocene/modern conditions. Full glacial climate deterioration (TANN = −3.3 °C, PANN = 550 mm) was relatively weak as suggested by the MAT-inferred average climate parameters and tree cover densities. However, error ranges of the climate reconstructions during this interval are relatively large and the last glacial environments in northern Sakhalin could be much colder and drier than suggested by the weighted average values. An anti-phase relationship between mean temperature of the coldest (MTCO) and warmest (MTWA) month is documented during the last glacial period, i.e. MIS 2 and 3, suggesting more continental climate due to sea levels that were lower than present. Warmest and wettest climate conditions have prevailed since the end of the last glaciation with an optimum (TANN = 1.5 °C, PANN = 800 mm) in the middle Holocene interval (ca 8.7–5.2 cal. ka BP). This lags behind the solar insolation peak during the early Holocene. We propose that this is due to continuous Holocene sea level transgression and regional influence of the Tsushima Warm Current, which reached maximum intensity during the middle Holocene. Several short-term climate oscillations are suggested by our reconstruction results and correspond to Northern Hemisphere Heinrich and Dansgaard–Oeschger events, the Bølling–Allerød and the Younger Dryas. The most prominent fluctuation is registered during Heinrich 4 event, which is marked by noticeably colder and drier conditions and the spread of herbaceous taxa.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 05/2015; 116. DOI:10.1016/j.quascirev.2015.03.012 · 4.57 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Defining varying spatial and temporal analytical scales is essential before evaluating the responses of late Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens to Abrupt Environmental Transitions (AETs) and environmental disasters for the period 130–25 ka. Recent advances in addressing the population histories and interactions (using both genetic and archaeological evidence) of Neanderthals and H. sapiens have encouraged consideration of more subtle dynamics of archaeological change. Descriptions of change based on methodologies pioneered some 160 years ago are no longer adequate to explain the patterning we now see in the record. New chronological results, using multiple dating methods, allow us to begin to unpick the spatial and temporal scales of change. Isochronic markers (such as specific volcanic eruptions) can be used to create temporal frameworks (lattices), and results from other dating techniques compared against them. A combination of chronological lattices and direct dating of diagnostic artefacts and human fossils permits us, for the first time, to have greater confidence in connecting human (recent hominin) species and their behavioural responses to environmental conditions, and in quantifying scales of change over time and space (time-transgression). The timing of innovations, particularly those in bone, antler and ivory, can be directly quantified and tested, and used to re-evaluate longstanding models of cultural change. This paper also uses these new chronologies to explore the ecologies of late Neanderthals and early H. sapiens: their population densities, mobilities, resources exploited and possible interactions. Environmental productivity estimates are used to generate new questions of potential population densities and mobilities, and thus the sensitivity of these groups to environmental perturbations. Scales and intensities of effect on environments from natural disasters and AETs (notably Heinrich Events and the Campanian Ignimbrite eruption) are defined as a scale from “proximal” to “distal,” with local conditions (topographic shelter or exposure) serving to intensify or mitigate those effects.
    Quaternary Science Reviews 02/2015; DOI:10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.12.003 · 4.57 Impact Factor
  • Source
    Paleoanthropology Society Annual Meeting, St. Louis, US.A.; 04/2010