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This Radiocarbon special double issue is dedicated to the “6th International Radiocarbon and Archaeology” Symposium that took place in Paphos, Cyprus – a real Mediterranean crossroads. The conference demonstrated that the inter- and intra-disciplinary nature of radiocarbon and archaeology research is no longer limited to an “exchange” of samples and dates, but is rapidly becoming an integrated whole, with the same student or researcher working in both worlds: radiocarbon and archaeology.
Jean-François Saliège passed away on Friday, 1 June 2012, following a heart attack at age 68. Jean-François was born in Chartres and spent his entire career in Paris, a city that he particularly enjoyed. He was hired in 1965 as a junior technician at the Laboratoire de Géologie Dynamique de la Faculté des Sciences de Paris at La Sorbonne University (Director Louis Glangeaud), where he participated in the creation of the radiocarbon and mass spectrometry laboratory under supervision of René Létolle, Jean-Charles Fontes, and Colette Vergnaud-Grazzini. In 1975, he moved to the University of Paris VI and worked more specifically with J-C Fontes in the 14C laboratory as an engineer. In 1981, he helped J-C Fontes to create the Hydrology and Isotope Geochemistry lab at Orsay University. The following year, he returned to the University of Paris VI and joined the team led by Colette Vergnaud-Grazzini at the Laboratoire de Géologie Dynamique, where Jean-François set up the new stable isotope and radiocarbon lab. Between 1990 and 2008, he continued to work at the University of Paris VI at the LODYC lab (Dir. Lilianne Merlivat), then at the LOCEAN lab (Dir. Laurence Eymard) on Catherine Pierre's team.
At Tell Sabi Abyad, Syria, radiocarbon dating previously provided a robust chronology for the 7th–early 6th millennium BC, the Late Neolithic. The continuous inhabitation spans the 8.2 ka climate event. This chronology has been used here in a study of stable isotope (13C and 15N) data of animal bones. This is the first isotope study undertaken on material from this area. The results are used to explore diet and therefore animal management practices through the period ∼6800–5800 BC. A climatic signal could not be detected in the bone samples.
One of the greatest challenges of contemporary archaeology is to synthesize the large amount of radiocarbon and archaeological data into a useful dialogue. For the late Epipaleolithic and the Early Neolithic of the Near East, many 14C ages have been published without precise stratigraphic documentation. Consequently, for archaeological age models we often must use some more elementary approaches, such as probabilistic summation of calibrated ages. The stratigraphy of Körtik Tepe allows us for the first time to study an extended series of 14C ages of the earliest Holocene. In particular, we are able to analyze the data according to stratigraphic position within a well-documented profile. However, because of a plateau in the 14C age calibration curve at the transition from the Younger Dryas to the Early Holocene, dates of this period can be interpreted only if an extended sequence of dates is available. Due to problems remaining in the calibration procedure, the best way to achieve an interpretation is to compare the results of different 14C calibration software. In the present paper, we use the results of the calibration programs OxCal and CalPal. This approach has important implications for future age modeling, in particular for the question of how to date the transition from the Epipaleolithic to the PPNA precisely and accurately.
The Neolithic site KS043, excavated by the Institut français d'archéologie orientale (IFAO), is situated in the southern basin of the Kharga Oasis (Egypt). It is one of the very few stratified prehistoric sites of the eastern Sahara. The archaeological remains were found near artesian springs that provided water for pastoralists during the dry Middle Holocene. In situ settlement features provided well-preserved material (charcoal, ashy sediment, ostrich eggshell) sufficient to perform radiocarbon dating in the IFAO laboratory in Cairo by the conventional liquid scintillation method. In 2 cases, ostrich eggshell and charcoal within the same in situ context gave significantly different results of, respectively, ∼600 and ∼1200 yr younger dates for the ostrich eggshells. The strong discrepancy is here highlighted for the first time and we suggest that it may be linked with postdepositional phenomena in the vicinity of the artesian springs. A thorough review of 14C dates available for the Holocene in eastern Sahara shows that ostrich eggshells have been widely used. They seem slightly more prone to be discarded than other material but were never the object of a particular study in this context. Bayesian modeling shows that the Neolithic occupation at site KS043 spans a range from 5000 to 3950 cal BC (and concentrated around 4600–4350 cal BC). Characteristic flint tools and pottery relate this occupation to the end of the Neolithic and show links with the Tasian culture, confirming the timing of the presence of this cultural complex in the desert before its appearance in the Nile Valley.
Archaeological investigations at Halai, a small city-state on the sea coast of East Lokris in Greece, have been carried out since 1986 by the Cornell Halai and East Lokris Project (CHELP). The town's acropolis, first inhabited in the Neolithic period, was in Greco-Roman times a political and cultural center controlling and serving a considerable territory. Radiocarbon dating of charred material unearthed from Neolithic deposits indicate that the Neolithic occupation probably lasted from about 6000 to 5300 BC. Details of dating are somewhat problematic, however, because of outlying determinations and lack of close agreement between determinations from the same or stratigraphically comparable material.
By analyzing archaeological evidence and radiocarbon dates, we studied the Neolithization of Far Northeast Europe (Russian Perm' region, Komi Republic, and Nenets autonomous district). Our study shows that this process in the eastern European forest zone was rather ambiguous. Taking into account the periodicity of settling and short duration of residence here, the term “Neolithization” in its traditional sense cannot be applied to some territories in this region. For instance, the emergence of ceramics—the most important feature of Neolithization here—did not affect considerably the way of life of the ancient population, which continued the traditions of the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers well into the Early Neolithic. Such attributes as heat treatment of clay paste and siliceous rocks for changing physical features of natural materials, bifacial knapping, and construction of subterranean dwellings represent the archaeological evidence of Neolithization in the region.
A compilation of direct age determinations for Late Pleistocene human fossils in eastern Europe and Asia is presented in this paper, and current problems with the dating of hominids in these regions are discussed. Only 25 human finds (4 Neanderthals and 21 modern humans) have been directly dated from Pleistocene eastern Europe and Asia. Indirect dating of human remains (using presumably associated organics) often is insecure, especially when information about the exact provenance of human fossils is lacking. Continuation of direct dating of Late Pleistocene humans in Eurasia, primarily with the help of the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C method, is therefore an urgent task.
Four late Pleistocene tephra layers—Tane I (Tn1), II (Tn2), III (Tn3), and IV (Tn4) in ascending order—are intercalated between widespread tephras, Kikai-Tozurahara (K-Tz: 95 ka) and Aira-Tn (AT: 30 cal kBP), on Tanegashima Island, in southern Japan. Paleolithic ruins such as the Yokomine C and Tatikiri archaeological sites were excavated from the loam layer between the Tn4 and Tn3 tephras. To refine the chronological framework on the island, we conducted accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating for 2 paleosol and 6 charcoal samples related with the late Pleistocene tephras and the Yokomine C archaeological site. The obtained 14C dates are consistent with the stratigraphy in calendar years, 33 cal kBP for Tn4, 40 cal kBP for Tn3, and >50 cal kBP for Tn2 and Tn1. The charcoal dates from Yokomine C, 32–38 cal kBP, not only constrain the age of Tn4 and Tn3 ashes, but also serve as a possible date for the site. We also measured the major element compositions of volcanic glass shards with EDS-EPMA to characterize these tephras. Although we could not find a possible correlative for Tn3 and Tn4 ashes using major element oxides of the glass shards, i.e. 75–76 wt% in SiO2, the glass chemistry obtained in this study will be valuable in correlating these tephras with their source volcanoes in the near future.
During the past 30 yr, the biblical narrative relating to the establishment of a kingdom in Judah has been much debated. Were David and Solomon historical rulers of an urbanized state-level society in the early 10th century BC, or was this level of social development reached only at the end of the 8th century BC, 300 yr later? Recent excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa, the first early Judean city to be dated by radiocarbon, clearly indicate a well-planned, fortified city in Judah as early as the late 11th to early 10th centuries BC. This new data has far-reaching implications for archaeology, history, and biblical studies.
The reliability of a radiocarbon date depends in part on the degree of precision and accuracy of the measurement. While analytical precision and accuracy can be improved by careful sample cleaning procedures and high laboratory standards, accuracy also depends upon the certainty to which the sample can be attributed to a specific material culture or event in the past. This might be questionable when based only on partial archaeological information. As a consequence, it is very difficult to date clear-cut chronological transitions within specific periods. This issue is particularly apparent in the case of Mediterranean Iron Age chronology, where 2 somewhat different perspectives are proposed, the “High Chronology” and the “Low Chronology,” which differ by ∼50 yr. Here, we present the preliminary results of an ongoing project that aims to characterize Iron Age archaeological contexts from the eastern Mediterranean, and to identify those contexts that are suitable for dating, in order to improve the accuracy of 14C dates. This study involves the analysis of sediments by means of FTIR spectrometry, soil micromorphology, phytolith and phosphate extraction, all of which provide insights into the site-formation and postdepositional processes at the different sites under investigation. These techniques, applied at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel), enabled us to better identify a secure context for dating.
Traditional archaeological approaches in the central Negev Desert used to employ excavation techniques in post-prehistoric periods in which stratigraphy is based on architecture, while material culture forms the basis for dating assessment and chronology. Such an approach was understandable, as it focused on the most visible remains of past human habitation. However, the detailed habitation record is in the soil rather than in the walls. Moreover, ceramics and stone tools in desert cultures often have limited time resolution in terms of absolute chronology. The rural desert site of Horvat Haluqim in the central Negev yielded 2 habitation periods with the traditional methodology: (1) Roman period, 2nd–3rd centuries CE; (2) Iron Age IIA, 10th century BCE. We have conducted at Horvat Haluqim initial excavations in small building remains that were never excavated before. Our excavation methodology focuses on detailed examination of the archaeological soil in building structures, coupled with accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating for chronology, and micromorphology of undisturbed soil samples to study stratigraphy and soil contents at the microscopic scale. Here, we report preliminary results, concentrating on the 14C dates. These suggest a much longer habitation history at the site during the Iron Age. The 14C dates obtained so far from these building remains cover Iron Age I, II, III, and the Persian period. The oldest calibrated date (charred C4 plants) in a rectangular building structure (L100) is 1129–971 BCE (60.5%, highest relative probability). The youngest calibrated date in a round building structure (L700) is 540–411 BCE (57.9%, highest relative probability). This excavation methodology provides additional “eyes” to look at past human habitation in the Negev Desert, seeing more periods and more detail than was possible with traditional schemes and ceramic dating.
Radiocarbon dating at the Tell el-Daba site in the Nile Delta has created an enigma for many years. Despite great efforts, the difference of about 120 yr between the chronology based on 14C dates and the one based on archaeological evidence linked to the Egyptian historical chronology has not been solved. In order to foster open discussions on this discrepancy, we present here the results of 40 14C accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements on short-lived plant material assigned to 14 different phases of the Tell el-Daba excavation, spanning 600 yr (about 2000–1400 BC). On the one hand, the recently established agreement between 14C dates and dynastic Egypt (Bronk Ramsey et al. 2010) makes it unlikely that the problem lies in the 14C dates and/or the Egyptian historical chronology. On the other hand, the extensive archaeological evidence from Tell el-Daba linked to many different cultures in the eastern Mediterranean and to the Egyptian historical chronology provides strong evidence for an absolute chronology shifted by about 120 yr with respect to the 14C dates.
Radiocarbon dating encounters (1) problems of reservoir effects and regional/seasonal variation affecting the chronological reliability of measurements, (2) problems of calibration of measurements via comparison with tree segments of known dendrochronological dates, (3) problems of statistical inference with respect to the data pre- and post-calibration, and (4) problems of the analysis and communication of information to archaeologists, historians, and other interested parties. This paper considers the special characteristics of each of the problem areas indicated in order to improve communication between 14C scientists and the disciplines of archaeology, anthropology, and ancient history.
Despite many recent attempts to settle the dispute concerning the absolute date of the Minoan Santorini eruption, there are still differences between some archaeologists and scientists on the absolute dates and the reliability of radiocarbon dating. The recent publication of over 200 new 14C dates for dynastic Egypt rules out a major flaw in the historical chronology of Egypt and proves the reliability of 14C dating in the Nile Valley. Therefore, the student of Aegean archaeology and eastern Mediterranean interconnections is still confronted with an archaeologically based conventional, or “low,” chronology and a 14C-backed “high” chronology. New 14C determinations from different sites of the Aegean support the high chronology for the Late Minoan (LM) IA, while recent re-evaluation of LM IB determinations are slightly higher but more or less in agreement with archaeological estimations. The present contribution reviews archaeological and scientific data for the LM IA period and argues that a reduced (∼30 to 50 yr) offset between archaeological and 14C dates for the Minoan Santorini eruption may be possible, thus offering new perspectives for potential solutions for this problem.
The debate over the dating of the Santorini (Thera) volcanic eruption has seen sustained efforts to criticize or challenge the radiocarbon dating of this time horizon. We consider some of the relevant areas of possible movement in the 14C dating—and, in particular, any plausible mechanisms to support as late (most recent) a date as possible. First, we report and analyze data investigating the scale of apparent possible 14C offsets (growing season related) in the Aegean-Anatolia-east Mediterranean region (excluding the southern Levant and especially pre-modern, pre-dam Egypt, which is a distinct case), and find no evidence for more than very small possible offsets from several cases. This topic is thus not an explanation for current differences in dating in the Aegean and at best provides only a few years of latitude. Second, we consider some aspects of the accuracy and precision of 14C dating with respect to the Santorini case. While the existing data appear robust, we nonetheless speculate that examination of the frequency distribution of the 14C data on short-lived samples from the volcanic destruction level at Akrotiri on Santorini (Thera) may indicate that the average value of the overall data sets is not necessarily the most appropriate 14C age to use for dating this time horizon. We note the recent paper of Soter (2011), which suggests that in such a volcanic context some (small) age increment may be possible from diffuse CO2 emissions (the effect is hypothetical at this stage and has not been observed in the field), and that "if short-lived samples from the same stratigraphic horizon yield a wide range of 14C ages, the lower values may be the least altered by old CO2." In this context, it might be argued that a substantive “low” grouping of 14C ages observable within the overall 14C data sets on short-lived samples from the Thera volcanic destruction level centered about 3326–3328 BP is perhaps more representative of the contemporary atmospheric 14C age (without any volcanic CO2 contamination). This is a subjective argument (since, in statistical terms, the existing studies using the weighted average remain valid) that looks to support as late a date as reasonable from the 14C data. The impact of employing this revised 14C age is discussed. In general, a late 17th century BC date range is found (to remain) to be most likely even if such a late-dating strategy is followed—a late 17th century BC date range is thus a robust finding from the 14C evidence even allowing for various possible variation factors. However, the possibility of a mid-16th century BC date (within ∼1593–1530 cal BC) is increased when compared against previous analyses if the Santorini data are considered in isolation.
The site area of Erimi-Laonin tou Porakou (Limassol, Cyprus) has been surveyed and systematically excavated since 2007 as a joint research project of the University of Florence and the Department of Antiquities of Cyprus. A focused investigation was dedicated to analyzing funerary evidence from the southern Cemetery (Area E), where 7 single-chamber graves were excavated. The offering goods assemblages from the burials point to a general date ranging from Early to Late Bronze Age I, and draw a sequence of use that is contemporary to the stratigraphic deposits from the top mound Workshop Complex (Area A). During the 2010 field season, charcoal samples from the Workshop Complex and bone samples from the skeleton remains of 2 burials (tombs 228, 230) were opportunely taken for radiocarbon analyses. 14C dating was performed at the AMS-IBA Tandetron accelerator of the INFN-LABEC Laboratory in Florence. This paper will discuss the results of the 14C analyses and compare them with the archaeological evidence in order to outline a chronological sequence for the settlement and cemetery areas at Erimi-Laonin tou Porakou, thus collecting further data on the development and pattern of occupation of the Early to Late Cypriote period in the Kourion area.
Seventeen of the 73 individuals buried in the Early Bronze Age (EBA) cemetery at Arano di Cellore di Illasi, near Verona, northern Italy, were radiocarbon dated by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). Bayesian modeling of the calibrated dates suggests that the cemetery was probably used over several generations mainly within the first 2 centuries of the 2nd millennium cal BC. Burial activity was therefore mainly restricted to within the EBA I B/EBA I C of the north Italian Bronze Age chronology. An isolated burial, found ∼90 m northwest of the cemetery, may date to the same period.
Over the years, 40 radiocarbon samples (charcoal and seeds) have been measured from the site of Tel Yarmuth. These samples originate from 3 major archaeological periods: Final Early Bronze Age (henceforth EB) I, EB II, and EB IIIB-C. The samples are further on divided into 8 separate archaeological phases. Bayesian modeling analyses were performed on the data. Separate models were run with seeds and charcoals to detect a possible old-wood effect. Outliers were detected, and finally models with gaps were run to account for the lack of samples from 2 archaeological layers. The results suggest that at Tel Yarmuth the end of the EB II occurred ∼2950–2880 BC, and that the EB III ended at the latest ∼2450 BC, perhaps before 2500 BC. Although these dates are somewhat earlier than traditionally assumed, they are in close accordance with the new analysis of other 14C dates for the Early Bronze Age in the southern Levant (Regev et al., these proceedings).