Title

High resolution analysis of uranium and thorium concentration as well as U-series isotope distributions in a Neanderthal tooth from Payre (Ardèche, France) using laser ablation ICP-MS

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Grun, R, Aubert, M, Joannes-Boyau, R & Moncel, MH 2008, 'High resolution analysis of uranium and thorium concentration as well as U-series isotope distributions in a Neanderthal tooth from Payre (Ardèche, France) using laser ablation ICP-MS', Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, vol. 72, no. 21, pp. 5278-5290.

Published version available from:

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gca.2008.08.007

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

We have mapped U (238U) and Th (232Th) elemental concentrations as well as U-series isotope distributions in a Neanderthal tooth from the Middle Palaeolithic site of Payre using laser ablation ICP-MS. The U-concentrations in an enamel section varied between 1 and 1500 ppb. The U-concentration maps show that U-migration through the external enamel surface is minute, the bulk of the uranium having migrated internally via the dentine into the enamel. The uranium migration and uptake is critically dependent on the mineralogical structure of the enamel. Increased U-concentrations are observed along lineaments, some of which are associated with cracks, and others may be related to intra-prismatic zones or structural weaknesses reaching from the dentine into the enamel. The uranium concentrations in the dentine vary between about 25,000 and 45,000 ppb. Our systematic mapping of U-concentration and U-series isotopes provides insight into the time domain of U-accumulation. Most of the uranium was accumulated in an early stage of burial, with some much later overprints. None of the uranium concentration and U-series profiles across the root of the tooth complied with a single stage diffusion–adsorption (D–A) model that is used for quality control in U-series dating of bones and teeth. Nevertheless, in the domains that yielded the oldest apparent U-series age estimates, U-leaching could be excluded. This means that the oldest apparent U-series ages of around 200 ka represent a minimum age for this Neanderthal specimen. This is in good agreement with independent age assessments (200–230 ka) for the archaeological layer, in which it was found.

The Th elemental concentrations in the dental tissues were generally low (between about 1 and 20 ppb), and show little relationship with the nature of the tissue.