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Consensus Dating of Mammoth Remains from Wrangel Island

  • Kh. A. Arslanov (a1), G. T. Cook (a2), Steinar Gulliksen (a3), D. D. Harkness (a4), Tuovi Kankainen (a5), E. M. Scott (a6), Sergey Vartanyan (a7) and Ganna I. Zaitseva (a8)...

Abstract

Previous results from remains of tusks, teeth and bones collected from Wrangel Island (Vartanyan et al. 1995) had given results in the range 3730 bp to 20,000 bp and the authors had concluded that “mammoths inhabited Wrangel Island for as long as 6000 yr after the estimated extinction on the Siberian continent”. There still remained the question of the earliest date for such remains. Further, the authors had noted such samples may present some difficulty in dating and therefore duplicate samples had been measured in a second laboratory with satisfactory results. The replicate dating of important or controversial samples in more than one laboratory is well-established (e.g., Turin Shroud) and in this paper, we present results for 5 mammoth samples dated by 6 laboratories. Such interlaboratory comparisons provide an independent means of verification of laboratory comparability, and give added confidence in the results, particularly when applied to more controversial samples. A further objective of the work has been to evaluate the material for inclusion in any large-scale interlaboratory comparison, such comparisons having in the past formed part of laboratory quality assurance protocols. The design and organization of a laboratory intercomparison requires homogeneous samples in sufficient quantity to satisfy participants, and so in principle, a single mammoth tusk would meet these criteria. Samples such as the mammoth tusk have been used in previous intercomparisons: e.g., in the last large-scale international intercomparison (Gulliksen and Scott 1995), whalebone was one of the materials distributed. One of the key advantages of such material is that a single sample (a mammoth tusk) can be resampled for analysis by multiple labs and thus does not require bulk homogenization. Therefore, as part of a preselection process for a future intercomparison, five samples from separate mammoth tusks were collected from Wrangel Island in 1995 in sufficient quantity to allow multiple dating. The aim was to identify five separate samples of young age, sample up to 1 kg from each tusk and mark the location so that after preliminary dating, samples could be retrieved as required in the future. Six laboratories received samples for dating. The paper will discuss the results from the laboratories, present consensus values, and make recommendations concerning use of these samples in a future laboratory intercomparison.

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Copyright

References

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Gulliksen, S. and Scott, E. M. 1995 Report of the TIRI workshop. In Cook, G. T., Harkness, D. D., Miller, B. F. and Scott, E. M., eds., Proceedings of the 15th International 14C Conference. Radiocarbon 37(2): 820822.
Scott, E. M., Long, A. and Kra, R. S., eds. 1990 Proceedings of the International Workshop on Intercomparison of 14C Laboratories. Radiocarbon 32(3): 253397.
Vartanyan, S. L., Arslanov, Kh. A., Tertychnaya, T. V. and Chernov, S. B. 1995 Radiocarbon dating evidence for mammoths on Wrangel Island, Arctic Ocean, until 2000 BC. Radiocarbon 37(1): 16.
Vartanyan, S. L., Garutt, V. E. and Sher, A. V. 1993 Holocene dwarf mammoths from Wrangel Island in the Siberian Arctic. Nature 362: 337340.

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