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Prehistoric shell mounds can be useful for the quantification of the radiocarbon marine reservoir effect (MRE) and, at the same time, knowledge about the MRE allows for the establishment of robust chronologies for these sites. This creates a loop in which the archaeological setting has a dual role: it is part of both the method and the application. Therefore, it is paramount to address these sites from both archaeological and environmental perspectives, investigating their origin and diagenesis in order to overcome biases caused by post-depositional alterations. In this study, samples of bone, charcoal and shell from a Late Holocene shell mound in Southern Brazil, the Sambaqui de Cabeçuda, were analyzed following a multidisciplinary approach to disentangle the complex relationships between archaeology and the environment. We performed X-ray diffraction, radiocarbon dating, stable isotopes (δ13C, δ18O, δ15N) and anthracology analyses as well as Bayesian Chronological Models and Isotope Mixing Models to assess the local MRE and to reconstruct the diet of Cabeçuda builders. Our results reveal a negative local correction for the MRE (ΔR = –263 ± 46 14C yr), expected for the lagoon next to the site, and diets with considerable intakes of marine proteins. We examine the implications of these results for the chronology of the site and discuss a series of complications when performing MRE studies using shell mound sites.
The modern antiquities market uses radiocarbon (14C) dating to screen for forged objects. Although this fact shows the potential and power of the method, the circumstances where it is applied can be questionable and call for our attention. Here we present an outline of a call to radiocarbon laboratories for due diligence and best practice approaches to the analysis of antique objects requested by non-research clients.
To examine the implications of seasonality for the construction of a single-year calibration curve we obtained separate dates on earlywood and latewood fractions of tree rings originating from England and dendrochronologically dated between AD 1352 and AD 1442. These demonstrated that an average difference of 26±15 yr exists between earlywood and latewood and that this difference can be as high as 33±19 yr during periods of high radiocarbon (14C) production. It is argued that this difference is due to both changes in atmospheric 14C and the incorporation of stored carbohydrates into earlywood. Based on this, it was possible to separate an atmospheric and physiological contribution to this difference. Our modeling indicates that storage can produce a difference of up to 10 years between earlywood and latewood. This suggests that full-year tree rings from deciduous trees may be less appropriate for the construction of a single-year calibration curve and that specific atmospheric events can be more easily detected by measuring only latewood.
Since its invention in the late 1940s, radiocarbon (14C) dating has become an important tool for absolute dating. A prerequisite for the acceptance of this method is consistency between, and compatibility of, 14C dates from different laboratories. To meet these requirements, international laboratory intercomparison studies with different sample materials are frequently performed (e.g. TIRI, FIRI, VIRI and, most recently, SIRI).Intercomparison is especially relevant and difficult for samples close to the dating limit of ~50 kBP, not least for bone samples. A 14C intercomparison study between the Leibniz-Laboratory in Kiel (Germany), the Center for Isotope Research (CIO) in Groningen (the Netherlands), and the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU, United Kingdom) was performed on three Pleistocene (MIS3) mammal bone samples from the Brick Quarry site Coenen (BQC) in Germany. The comparison of individually prepared and measured bone collagen 14C activities, results from shared collagen measurements, and respective background signatures and correction points to the latter as the main factor responsible for observed differences in final given radiocarbon estimates.
This study evaluates the radiocarbon dating of ceramic samples from Tupiguarani sites in Brazil, a settlement type dating up to 3000 cal BP. In this work, residues from ceramic samples from four archaeological sites in Rio de Janeiro (Morro Grande, Serrano, Barba Couto, and Bananeiras) were analyzed. In order to identify the most suitable sample preparation protocols, the humic fraction was isolated from the bulk material at the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU), whereas the acid-base-acid (ABA) residue fraction method was applied at the Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Fluminense Federal University (LAC-UFF). The dating results were compared to the current knowledge about the occupational periods of the sites. For the Morro Grande site, the results of humic and ABA residue fractions show a difference of more than 1500 yr. For the Serrano site, the 14C ages obtained from the two pretreatments are identical, and as with the Barba Couto and Bananeiras sites, indicate an occupation during the Brazilian colonial period of the 16th century AD and are compatible with the archaeological data.
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