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New dating confirms that people occupied the Australian continent before the earliest time inferred from conventional radiocarbon analysis. Many of the new ages were obtained by accelerator mass spectrometry 14C dating after an acid–base–acid pretreatment with bulk combustion (ABA-BC) or after a newly developed acid–base–wet oxidation pretreatment with stepped combustion (ABOX-SC). The samples (charcoal) came from the earliest occupation levels of the Devil's Lair site in southwestern Western Australia. Initial occupation of this site was previously dated 35,000 14C yr B.P. Whereas the ABA-BC ages are indistinguishable from background beyond 42,000 14C yr B.P., the ABOX-SC ages are in stratigraphic order to ∼55,000 14C yr B.P. The ABOX-SC chronology suggests that people were in the area by 48,000 cal yr B.P. Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL), electron spin resonance (ESR) ages, U-series dating of flowstones, and 14C dating of emu eggshell carbonate are in agreement with the ABOX-SC 14C chronology. These results, based on four independent techniques, reinforce arguments for early colonization of the Australian continent.
This article reports on ten new accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates from the Chalcolithic period (fifth millennium BC) archaeological type-site of Teleilat Ghassul in Jordan. Early radiocarbon assays from the site proved difficult to integrate with current relative chronological formulations. The ten new AMS dates and follow-up enquiries connected with the early assays suggest that the original dates were up to 500 years too early. A necessary reformulation of regional relative chronologies now views the Ghassul sequence falling between Late Neolithic Jericho and the Beersheban Chalcolithic.
The spatial and temporal distribution of 145 radiocarbon dates on 66 Australian stick-nest rat middens (Muridae: Leporillus spp.) range from modern to 10,900 ± 90 BP. As in American packrat middens, age frequency follows a logarithmic decay, both continentally and at major sites. This is probably a result of natural decay processes. Unlike American middens of similar age, relatively few range changes in plant distribution have been detected in Australia. The distribution of 14C ages and the associated midden materials provide important paleoenvironmental information from the arid interior of Australia. The middens record subtle changes in vegetation and dramatic changes in the fauna unlike those interpreted from sites on the coastal rim or the southeastern periphery of the arid zone.
The ANTARES accelerator mass spectrometry facility at Lucas Heights Research Laboratory is operational and AMS measurements of 14C, 26Al and 36Cl are being carried out routinely. Measurement of 129I recently commenced and capabilities for other long-lived radioisotopes such as 10Be are being established. The overall aim of the facility is to develop advanced programs in Quaternary science, global climate change, biomedicine and nuclear safeguards.
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