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Secondary carbonate deposits (similar to speleothems) in urban undergrounds, have been recently highlighted as powerful archives for reconstruction of the historical anthropogenic imprint on the environment. The precise chronology of these secondary carbonate deposits is a key issue for the accurate time reconstruction of environmental conditions. We present three 14C data sets for urban speleothem-like deposits that developed in contrasted man made environments. The first one was sampled in an underground technical gallery of the Palace of Versailles (France), and the other two in a manhole (Saint-Martin spring) of a historical underground aqueduct in Paris (France). The comparison of these records with the bomb peak and relative chronology (laminae counting) allowed us to identify: i) fast carbon transfer from the atmosphere to the urban underground; ii) a high proportion of dead carbon and a high damping effect in relation to possible old carbon stored within urban soils and/or the influence of local fossil carbon burning. This study also shows that the lamination of these deposits is bi-annual in these highly urbanized sites.
The Grotte Cosquer (southeastern France) is a Paleolithic painted cave only accessible by a deep-water dive. The cave has yielded numerous Paleolithic engravings and drawings, which were produced from wood charcoal. This article presents new radiocarbon dates obtained on samples collected in 2012 directly on 17 parietal representations and at the soil surface, and discusses the 14C results obtained since the discovery of the cave in 1992. A total of 41 samples were dated with ages ranging from 33,000 to 20,000 cal BP. They show that the cave was intermittently decorated over about 10,000 yr.
The Chauvet-Pont d'Arc Cave is one of the most important sites for the study of the earliest manifestations and development of prehistoric art at the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic. Different dating techniques have been performed thus far (AMS 14C, U/Th TIMS, 36Cl dating) to model the chronological framework of this decorated cave. The cave yielded several large charcoal fragments, which enabled the opportunity for obtaining multiple dates; thus, a First Radiocarbon Intercomparison Program (FIP) was initiated in 2004 using three charcoal pieces. The FIP demonstrated that those cross-dated samples belonged to a time period associated with the first human occupation. One of the statistical interests of an intercomparison program is to reduce the uncertainty on the sample age; thus, to further assess the accuracy of the chronological framework, the Second Intercomparison Program (SIP) involving 10 international 14C laboratories was carried out on two pieces of charcoal found inside two hearth structures of the Galerie des Mégacéros. Each laboratory used its own pretreatment and AMS facilities. In total, 21 and 22 measurements were performed, respectively, which yielded consistent results averaging ∼32 ka BP. Two strategies have currently been developed to identify statistical outliers and to deal with them; both lead to quasi-identical calibrated combined densities. Finally, the new results were compared with those of the FIP, leading to the important conclusion that five different samples from at least three different hearth structures give really tightened temporal densities, associated with one short human occupation in the Galerie des Mégacéros.
The Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement (LSCE) research program on prehistoric art conducts chronological studies of parietal representations with their associated archaeological context. This multidisciplinary approach provides chronological arguments about the creation period of parietal representations. This article presents chronological investigations carried out in several decorated caves in France (La Grande Grotte, Labastide, Lascaux, La Tête-du-Lion, Villars) and Spain (La Garma, Nerja, La Pileta, Urdiales). Several types of organic materials, collected from different areas of the caves close to the walls and in connection with parietal art, were dated to determine the periods of human presence in the cave, a presence that may have been related to artistic activities. These new radiocarbon results range from 33,000–29,000 (La Grande Grotte) to 16,000–14,000 cal BP (Urdiales).
In this paper, we explain our routine pretreatment of bone for radiocarbon dating by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS), based on the specific reaction between amino acids and ninhydrin described by Nelson (1991). The values and uncertainties of the total system background are presented as a function of the carbon sample mass and the reliability of this method is discussed.
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