Dating hominids

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But in geologic terms, it isn't much at all." Most scientists believe that central Africa was the springboard for hominid evolution in the late Miocene or early Pliocene - about 4-5 million years ago.However, there is much less agreement on when hominids migrated out of Africa.What hasn't eroded are ancient lake deposits - layers of clay, silt and sand - that sometimes contain fish remains and other fossils.That composition, Levi said, is what made Erk-el-Ahmar difficult to date.It suggests that hominids migrated northward from Africa into Europe and Asia through the Levantine Corridor.

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"Potassium-Argon dating can be used from about 10,000 years to more than a billion years, depending on the rock, but it requires volcanic material, such as lava flows or volcanic ash.Shaul Levi, a professor emeritus of oceanic and atmospheric sciences at OSU, and Hagai Ron, an Israeli geophysicist, were able to narrow down the range of ages for the formation by studying the reversals of the Earth's magnetic field recorded in the sedimentary formation."The Earth's magnetic field has reversed its polarity numerous times in the past 50-60 million years," Levi said.The field arises from organized flow in the electrically conducting fluid, composed primarily of iron and nickel alloy, with additions of other lighter elements.What triggers magnetic reversals isn't understood, Levi said, and reversals from one polarity to another may take thousands of years.

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