Geochronology is the scientific discipline concern with the timing of past events and species occurrences. GARG scientists apply techniques from the physics world to key question in Human evolution research, such as the age of our ancestors, expansion and migration routes or the extinction of key species.
Unravelling the mystery of the mighty ape’s last stand
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of Gigantopithecus blacki, the largest ever primate, has never been resolved despite contemporaneous human survival in the region. Applying multiple dating techniques modelled across key sites to identify a precise extinction window will enable a focused comparison of behaviour and past environmental conditions to determine why the ape failed and man persevered.
Learn more about the mighty ape
Visualising the evolving landscapes of our early South African ancestors
The research will enable us to reconstruct the early evolution of our genus due to our recent discovery of one of the most complete early Homo crania from South Africa and the oldest Homo ergaster fossil in the world. It will address how Homo evolved and adapted to the ancient landscape of the UNESCO World Heritage area and the extinction of species in response to changing environmental conditions and increasing aridity. Learn more about the Drimolen site.
Dating Homo naledi and associated deposits in Rising Star Cave, South Africa
In September 2015 the discovery of a new species Homo naledi, was announced from a cave system in the Cradle of Humankind (CoH), South Africa. The rich fossil assemblage represents the largest collection of fossils from a single species ever to be discovered in Africa. By combining the US-ESR ages obtained on the teeth, with the U-Th age for the oldest flowstone overlying Homo naledi fossils, we have constrained the depositional age to 236-335 ka. These results demonstrate that a morphologically primitive hominin, survived into the later parts of the Pleistocene in Africa.
Understanding Modern Human migration: Out of Africa and into Southeast Asia.
While the earliest known occurrence of Homo sapiens was dated to be around 300,000 years ago in North Africa, the exact timing of the species expansion outside of the African continent remains highly debated. Our recent dating of Lida Ajer in Sumatra at 73,000–63,000 years ago represents the earliest evidence of rainforest occupation by archaic modern Humans, and underscores the importance of reassessing the timing and environmental context of the dispersal of modern humans out of Africa. Our ongoing work investigate several sites in the region in order to better characterise the route and timing of early human migration.
THE FIRST OF OUR KIND
The timing and location of the emergence of our species and of associated behavioural changes are crucial for our understanding of human evolution. At the Jebel Irhoud site in Morocco, archeologists have discovered stone tools and several human fossils. With his colleagues from the Max Planck Institute, GARG scientist Dr Renaud Joannes-Boyau performed the direct dating of the Hominin fossil remains to reveal an age of 315 ± 34 thousand years, making them the earliest known Homo sapiens fossils.