Confirmation of a late middle Pleistocene age for the Omo Kibish 1 cranium by direct uranium-series dating
While it is generally accepted that modern humans evolved in Africa, the specific physical evidence for that origin remains disputed. The modern-looking Omo 1 skeleton, discovered in the Kibish region of Ethiopia in 1967, was controversially dated at 130 ka (thousands of years ago) by U-series dating on associated Mollusca, and it was not until 2005 that Ar-Ar dating on associated feldspar crystals in pumice clasts provided evidence for an even older age of 195 ka. However, questions continue to be raised about the age and stratigraphic position of this crucial fossil specimen. Here we present direct U-series determinations on the Omo 1 cranium. In spite of significant methodological complications, which are discussed in detail, the results indicate that the human remains do not belong to a later intrusive burial and are the earliest representative of anatomically modern humans. Given the more archaic morphology shown by the apparently contemporaneous Omo 2 calvaria, we suggest that direct U-series dating is applied to this fossil as well, to confirm its age in relation to Omo 1.