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Radiocarbon Dating of Mortars with a Pozzolana Aggregate Using the Cryo2SoniC Protocol to Isolate the Binder

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 December 2017

Sara Nonni*
Department of Earth Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage) – INNOVA, 81020 San Nicola La Strada, Caserta, Italy
Fabio Marzaioli
CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage) – INNOVA, 81020 San Nicola La Strada, Caserta, Italy Department of Mathematics and Physics, Second University of Naples, 81100 Caserta, Italy
Silvano Mignardi
Department of Earth Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, 00185 Rome, Italy
Isabella Passariello
CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage) – INNOVA, 81020 San Nicola La Strada, Caserta, Italy Department of Mathematics and Physics, Second University of Naples, 81100 Caserta, Italy
Manuela Capano
CIRCE – Second University of Naples; present address: Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, Coll France, CEREGE, Aix-en-Provence, France
Filippo Terrasi
CIRCE (Centre for Isotopic Research on Cultural and Environmental Heritage) – INNOVA, 81020 San Nicola La Strada, Caserta, Italy Department of Mathematics and Physics, Second University of Naples, 81100 Caserta, Italy
*Corresponding author. Email:


To date, finding a technique able to effectively isolate the carbon signal from the binder of a mortar is still an open challenge. In this paper, the radiocarbon (14C) dating of one of the most challenging and diffuse types of mortar, the one with pozzolana aggregate, is investigated. Eight mortar samples from three archaeological sites near Rome (Italy) underwent a selection process called Cryo2SoniC. The selected fractions were analyzed by the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C technique and compared to known historical references. Additional scanning electron microscopy analysis and petrographic investigations were done, respectively, to check the grain size of the fractions selected by Cryo2SoniC, and further, to characterize the original mortar samples. The masses of carbon yielded from the dated fractions were almost half of those released from some aerial mortars. The 14C dating results were accurate for pozzolana mortars, from buried and unburied structures, with calcination relics and small contamination of secondary calcite. A limitation in the purification protocol was observed on samples with a massive contamination of secondary calcite deposition of ground water origin, occluding porosity and substituting up to the 80% of the original binder matrix.

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© 2017 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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Radiocarbon Dating of Mortars with a Pozzolana Aggregate Using the Cryo2SoniC Protocol to Isolate the Binder
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