Archaeologists from Purdue University have questioned the age of the remains of ancient people from the Cradle of Humankind in South Africa (Sterkfontein), where they found many human bones of various stages of its evolution. According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their true age is about a million years older, disproving the theory that the South African Australopithecus is an earlier offshoot of the East African Afar Australopithecus.
In the course of the work, scientists analyzed the radioactive decay of aluminum-26 and beryllium-10 isotopes in the mineral quartz, which are formed as a result of reactions with cosmic rays near the earth’s surface. The time when the decay begins, experts associate with the date of burial of these minerals in the cave, where they fall along with the fossils. It turned out that the age of the found remains dates from 3.4 to 3.6 million years, which suggests that the inhabitants of Sterkfontein lived at the same time as other Australopithecus species, for example, Australopithecus afarensis in East Africa.
In June 2022, a group of international specialists from the UK and Germany, led by archaeologists from the University of Cambridge, found the oldest axes in Northern Europe in the southeast of England, as well as more than 200 other artifacts.