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Locating Archaeological Horizons with 14C Sediment Dating: The Case of the Lost City of Helike

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

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In 373 bc a catastrophic earthquake and seismic sea wave destroyed Helike, a Greek city near Aigion on the southern shore of the Gulf of Corinth. The ruins were buried by sediments of unknown depth, leaving no trace of the city. We here discuss the radiocarbon dating of organic sediment samples recovered from seven boreholes drilled on the coastal plain in the area where ancient sources located Helike. Most of the samples apparently acquired a substantial addition of older carbon from natural sources, and hence their apparent ages are older than the true ages of sedimentation. However, if we assume that the addition is systematic, we can use the apparent ages to show that the sedimentation rate was initially rapid (about 1 cm yr-1) for the strata between 40 and 10 m below the surface, and then decreased by an order of magnitude about 6500 yr ago. A related change in the sediment deposition at about the same time has been found in many other marine deltas throughout the world, probably due to the deceleration of the global sea-level rise. We conclude that in the boreholes sampled by the present data, the horizon corresponding to ancient Helike is less than 8 m deep.

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References

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