Special issue of 'Quaternary International' on Electron Spin Resonance dating

Researchers from the CENIEH have participated in a special issue of this scientific journal, in which the potential of this dating method for the fields of geology, archaeology and palaeoanthropology is demonstrated.

The Centro Nacional de Investigación sobre la Evolución Humana (CENIEH) has participated in the preparation and publication of a special issue of the scientific journal Quaternary International dedicated to the Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating method, whose objective is to make this method, its potential and limitations known, as well as to show in which situations in geology, archaeology and palaeoanthropology it could be useful.

This is a unique compilation entitled Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating in Quaternary studies: evolution, recent advances and applications, comprising 16 original articles signed by authors from a variety of institutions in America, Asia, Europe and Oceania, among whom are several CENIEH researchers, involved in five of the papers.

Two of these center on dating the Acheulean site of Porto Maior (Pontevedra, Spain) and the Middle Palaeolithic site of Cuesta de la Bajada (Teruel, Spain); another offers new dates for Lower Palaeolithic sites in France; there is also a paper dedicated to dating the French Neanderthal site of Tourville-la-Rivière, and the final one centers on dating certain coastal alluvial deposits in Chile with a combination of ESR and Luminescence.

The papers cover a wide variety of applications of the method, to fossil teeth, quartz grains, mollusc shells or corals. Each article includes a direct comparison with another dating method, such as Radiocarbon, Luminescence, Uranium-Thorium or Argon-Argon, thus enabling independent evaluation of how reliable the datings found using ESR are.

“This compilation allows us to make the ESR method better known, as even though it was applied for the first time 45 years ago by the Japanese researcher Motoji Ikeya, it is little known within the scientific community, and even less by the general public”, says Mathieu Duval (CENIEH and Griffith University), who has co-edited this issue with Lee Arnold (University of Adelaide) and Gilles Rixhon (University of Strasbourg).

“The publication of this special issue is an important event for the CENIEH and its Geochronology Program, positioning them as one of the leaders in the field of ESR dating”, concludes Duval, Ramón y Cajal Senior Research Fellow.

More than 10 years of ESR

This dating method has become consolidated at the CENIEH over the last decade. Since the inauguration of the Center in 2009, an ESR laboratory which is an international benchmark has been set up: numerous important studies in the field of human evolution have used it, such as the recent dating work for Homo antecessor in Spain, for Homo naledi in South Africa, and for the most ancient Homo sapiens found outside Africa so far. Moreover, in June 2021, the next LED conference which brings together all the international specialists in the field of Luminescence and ESR dating every three years, will be organized by the CENIEH.