Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsI would like to welcome you to the online course of dating of human evolution. My name is Rainer Grun. And I'm the director of the Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution at Griffith University. In this course, you will meet some of my colleagues from the Australian Research Centre, or ARCHE. One is Tanya Smith. She's a paleoanthropologist. She will give you an overview on human evolution. We have Mathieu Duval, who is a specialist on ESR dating. He will show you that dating technique, and how we get insights into human evolution from there. And the third one is Maxime Aubert, who is a specialist in rock art dating.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsIn the first week, we'll give you an introduction to the principles of dating of human evolution. We give you, also, an overview of general human evolution. And then we will talk a little bit about when are dates correct and when they're not correct, because that happens as well. And after that, we will give you an introduction into three dating techniques that can be directly applied to human fossils. In week two, I will introduce you to three different archaeological sites, the exciting findings that were made at these sites, and then how we worked on dating these fossils. And to summarise is then how these fossils and the dates changed our understanding of human evolution.

Welcome to Week 1

We’re pleased you could join us. This week you will focus upon the basic principles and implications of dating human fossils.

In Week 1, we are going to hit our question head-on: How do we date human evolution?

We’ll start with the broader concepts. We’ll provide you with a short overview of human evolution. You’ll then consider the important role that the dating of human fossils plays in the reconstruction of these theories. Next, we’ll look at how correct our dating is, which will lead us into a discussion of the limitations of dating.

From this point, we’ll narrow our focus a little. We’ll start to look at some of the science that makes it possible to date human fossils. You’ll examine three dating methods – Carbon dating (C-14), Uranium-series dating (U-series) and Electron Spin Resonance dating (ESR).

By the end of this week, you will be ready to:

  • provide a brief description of human evolution
  • explain the implications of dating human fossils
  • discuss the limitations of dating
  • describe some basic science behind the dating of human fossils.

Meet the team

ARCHEThe Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution. Griffith University is proud to be the home of ARCHE. ARCHE is the first academic centre with a specific focus on gaining a deeper understanding of ancient human migrations and the full story of the origins of people in our region. Visit their webpage to see the full range of their research and publications.

Griffith and ARCHE have provided you with a team to guide your investigation over the next two weeks.

Your educators

Professor Rainer Grün is the Director of ARCHE. The central theme of Professor Grün’s research is geochronology. He is an acknowledged leader in the field of ESR dating and has extensive experience in U-series, radiocarbon and luminescence dating. His work on Qafzeh, Skhul and Tabun in the early 1990s contributed to a complete revision of our views on modern human evolution and archaeological chronology.

Professor Tanya Smith has spent 20 years exploring the faithful records of daily growth, infant diet, and stress that are preserved in our teeth for millions of years. Her research has helped to identify the origins of a fundamental human adaptation: the shift from a “live fast and die young” strategy to the “live slow and grow old” strategy that has helped to make us one of the most successful mammals on the planet. She is motivated by a desire to understand how teeth grow, why they vary, and how this information can advance the field of human evolutionary biology.

Professor Maxime Aubert is an archaeologist and geochemist that specializes in the development and application of analytical techniques to key questions in human evolution such as the dating of rock art and hominin fossils. His work with Associate Professor Adam Brumm (also of ARCHE) reporting the discovery of 40,000-year-old rock art in Indonesia changed traditional views that Europe was the birthplace of creative expression. Their research was named as one of the top ten scientific achievements of 2014.

Doctor Mathieu Duval is an archaeologist and geochronologist who specializes in Quaternary Geochronology and Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating. His research has a focus in two areas: Methodological developments to improve the reliability and accuracy of the ESR dating method, and Applications of ESR dating in relation to archaeological, human evolution-related or geological questions. The results of his work have contributed to refining the age of some of the oldest archaeological sites in Southern Europe and Northern Africa.

If you haven’t done so already, follow your lead educators for course updates, feedback and discussions. Click on their profile and select ‘follow’.

Your task

Select the comments link below to start a conversation. In this first post, we’d like you to simply share what you’re most hoping to learn in the course. You may have already introduced yourself in the pre-course discussion. Now the course has begun, we’re keen to learn more about why you’re here. You’ll have the opportunity for a fuller introduction over the next sections of the course.

Don’t forget that liking and replying to comments that interest or challenge you is an important way of contributing to the conversations that will make this course a vibrant experience; not only for you, but also for other learners.

When you have completed your task, select ‘Mark as Complete’ to help you track your progress through the course.

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This video is from the free online course:

A Question of Time: How We Date Human Evolution

Griffith University