New dating evidence of the early presence of hominins in Southern Europe.
The first "Out of Africa" migrations represent a seminal event in the history of humankind. At the gates of Europe, the first appearance of Hominins is recorded in Georgia, 1.8 million years ago (Ma); however, the picture of migration across the continent remains incomplete. Vallonnet Cave (France) is a Lower Paleolithic prehistoric site with traces of hominin activities including lithic remains and cut-marks on mammal bones. Here, we apply the uranium-lead (U-Pb) methods to two flowstones to date the intervening archaeological levels. The U-Pb data, coupled with paleomagnetic constraints, provide an age range from 1.2 to 1.1 Ma. The results conclusively demonstrate that Vallonnet Cave is one of the oldest European prehistoric sites in France with early hominin occupations associated with an Epivillafranchian fauna. Combined with data from other archaeological sites, the new precise chronology suggests a widespread occupation the Northern Mediterranean to Southwestern Europe at ~1.2 Ma.