Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version

Spring 2013

Thesis Advisor

Janet Monge


Most anthropologists agree that Neandertals disappeared ca. 40,000—30,000 years BP* (Larsen, 2008). Recent genomic research has indicated that Neandertals may have interbred with modern humans (Durand et al., 2011). In the 1950s at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Mesolithic human (hereafter referred to as hominin) bones from Hotu and Belt Caves, Iran, were radiocarbon dated to approximately 8,000—11,000 years BP. However, these radiocarbon measurements were taken in the early 1950s before dating techniques had been refined and before the need for calibration curves had been realized. The scientist in charge of dating the samples remarked herself that the dates did not fit with the given context and that she feared contamination had ruined the results. Preliminary investigation of the remains indicates that at least one cranium, Belt Skull No. 2, presents both Homo sapiens (modern human) and Homo neanderthalensis (Neandertal) skeletal traits. I propose to examine the physical characteristics and determine the absolute age of the Mesolithic hominin skeletal remains from Hotu and Belt Caves, excavated by Dr. Carleton S. Coon of the Penn Museum in 1951-1952 in Northern Iran. These remains and their absolute age hold great implications for the relationship between modern humans and Neandertals, including the feasibility of interbreeding. In order to understand the relationship between hominin species, a reliable radiocarbon date must be made available for the Hotu and Belt Cave hominins. Dr. Janet Monge supervised the analysis and sampling of the skeletal material. Procuring a specimen fit for modern radiocarbon dating has proved difficult, as undocumented conservation techniques applied in the field and in the museum have contaminated a majority of the skeletal collection. Additionally, the radiocarbon dates from the 1950s must be calibrated in order to account for natural carbon isotope fluctuations and isotope fractionation.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



Date Posted: 08 June 2016


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