Tue, Dec 29, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Zuojhen Man found to be only 3,000 years old

IMMATURE TECHNOLOGY:The fluorine dating method used in 1976 to calculate the age of human fossils found in Taiwan has proved to be inaccurate by about 16,000 years

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

A report by the Chinese-language United Daily News last week reported that the Zuojhen Man human fossils found in Tainan’s Zuojhen District (左鎮) that were estimated to be between 20,000 years old and 30,000 years old, are actually 3,000 years old.

Amateur collectors in 1970 discovered human skulls and teeth fossils at the Cailiao River (菜寮溪) valley in Zuojhen, which Japanese anthropologist Nobuo Shimoda in 1976 estimated were between 20,000 and 30,000 years old using a fluorine absorption dating method, National Tsing Hua University anthropology professor Chiu Hung-lin (邱鴻霖) said.

The Zuojhen Man was assumed to be from the late Paleolithic Age and was considered the earliest human fossils found in Taiwan, Chiu said.

National Taiwan Museum researcher Li Tzu-Ning (李子寧) and Chiu in 2013 sent two pieces of the fossils to a laboratory in the US to determine their precise age using a radiocarbon dating method.

The museum, where the fossils are kept, had planned to include the fossils in its permanent collection.

In September, the fossils were dated at only about 3,000 years old, but the finding was not revealed until last week, Chiu said.

“Geologically speaking, the area [the Cailiao River valley] has the potential to contain human skulls up to 30,000 years old. However, it is now certain that the Zuojhen Man is not that old,” Chiu said.

Chiu said anthropologists had long suspected that the Zuojhen Man was from the Neolithic Age as the fossils were discovered with other relics of the Neolithic Age, while the dating method Shimoda used was an immature technology at the time.

No other dating had been conducted until recently, as it was feared that the fossils could be damaged, but current dating technology can yield accurate analysis with minimal damage, he said.

Human skeletons found at Taitung County’s Changbin Township (長濱) should replace the Zuojhen Man as the earliest Paleolithic human fossils, which could also be traced back about 20,000 to 30,000 years, he said.

“The findings should see a textbook revision, because students should not have been taught that the Zuojhen Man was the earliest Paleolithic human fossils found in Taiwan, especially when its precise dating was still a topic of debate,” he said, adding that no anthropologists work on the textbook drafting committee.

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