Paleontology dating fossils

13-Jul-2019 10:01 by 10 Comments

Paleontology dating fossils

Other techniques, such as potassium-argon dating, can derive the age of surrounding volcanic rock.

That rich fossil cache revealed much about the creatures, yet it left one glaring question unanswered: when did live?Identifying the age of this Neanderthal (‘man from the Neander Valley’) was crucial for interpreting his significance.The skeleton had been found right around the time Charles Darwin published (1859), and its vaguely human appearance suggested it had the potential to illuminate the human past, but only if it were truly ancient.Over the past century, anthropology’s situation improved greatly with the introduction of new techniques, most notably the measurement of radioactive isotopes that decay predictably over time.Radiocarbon dating, which examines the carbon isotopes within the fossils, can measure the age of the bones themselves.Throughout the 20th century, scientists refined these dates using increasingly creative techniques, such as measuring light produced by heated crystals to derive their precise compositions.

This knowledge has allowed us to prove that Neanderthals preceded but overlapped with (and occasionally interbred with) modern , some scientists see the lack of an established age as an opportunity in disguise.

Conversely, a primitive shoulder that appears to be built for climbing would make sense millions of years ago, but doesn’t fit with our ideas about hominin lifestyles in the more recent past.

One scientist went so far as to claim that without a convincing measured age, the was announced, anthropologists remain stumped about when this species lived.

The scientists had no evidence for how old the fossils were.

Without that information, it was very hard to know where the new species fits on the tangled human family tree, and to figure out its true meaning.

Some scientists suggested the Neanderthal was an ape-like ancestor or belonged to an ancient European race.

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