Clocks, microscopes and … telescopes to reconstruct human history


Prof. Claudio Tuniz

‘Abdus Salam’ International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

DATE: 28th August 2019
TIME: 10:30-12:00 am
LOCATION:Rigoni Stern Institute, Asiago

The reconstruction of human history in the deep past is based on data obtained through the characterisation of hominid fossils, of their cultural products and of the environment in which they lived. Such data include age and microstructure of the materials of interest. Dating methods based on radioactivity, such as radiocarbon, luminescence and uranium-thorium, provide reliable chronologies for the periods relevant to human evolution. New x-ray and neutron microscopes allow us to reconstruct the internal microstructure of bones and teeth and to perform ‘virtual’ histological analyses. Ions, lasers and synchrotron radiation microprobes can provide elemental and isotopic maps of tooth enamel to study diet and biologic development. This is a brief review of the most recent dating and micro-analytical methods, with some examples of their application in human origin studies.

Claudio Tuniz coordinates the X-ray Laboratory for Cultural Heritage at the ‘Abdus Salam’ International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, and the Project S.A.P.I.E.N.S at the ‘Enrico Fermi’ Historical Museum of Physics and Study and Research Centre. He is also Visiting Professor at the Centre for Archaeological Science of the University of Wollongong in Australia and Editor-in-chief of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, Springer. Tuniz has published the following books: Humans. A unauthorised biography, with P. Tiberi Vipraio, Springer, 2016; The science of human origins, with G. Manzi and D. Caramelli, Routledge, 2014; Radioactivity: a very short introduction, Oxford University Press, 2012; The Bone Readers. Science and Politics in Human Origins Research, Routledge, 2009.

Claudio Tuniz1 and Franco Zanini,  Microcomputerized Tomography (MicroCT) in Archaeology, Applied Physics, The ‘Abdus Salam’ International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Trieste, Italy

Rainer Gru ̈n, Direct Dating of Human Fossils, Research School of Earth Sciences, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra ACT 0200, Australia

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