To save content items to your account,
please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies.
If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account.
Find out more about saving content to .
To save content items to your Kindle, first ensure firstname.lastname@example.org
is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings
on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part
of your Kindle email address below.
Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations.
‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi.
‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
The IntCal family of radiocarbon (14C) calibration curves is based on research spanning more than three decades. The IntCal group have collated the 14C and calendar age data (mostly derived from primary publications with other types of data and meta-data) and, since 2010, made them available for other sorts of analysis through an open-access database. This has ensured transparency in terms of the data used in the construction of the ratified calibration curves. As the IntCal database expands, work is underway to facilitate best practice for new data submissions, make more of the associated metadata available in a structured form, and help those wishing to process the data with programming languages such as R, Python, and MATLAB. The data and metadata are complex because of the range of different types of archives. A restructured interface, based on the “IntChron” open-access data model, includes tools which allow the data to be plotted and compared without the need for export. The intention is to include complementary information which can be used alongside the main 14C series to provide new insights into the global carbon cycle, as well as facilitating access to the data for other research applications. Overall, this work aims to streamline the generation of new calibration curves.
The direct carbonate procedure for accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) dating of submilligram samples of biogenic carbonate without graphitization is becoming widely used in a variety of studies. We compare the results of 153 paired direct carbonate and standard graphite 14C determinations on single specimens of an assortment of biogenic carbonates. A reduced major axis regression shows a strong relationship between direct carbonate and graphite percent Modern Carbon (pMC) values (m = 0.996; 95% CI [0.991–1.001]). An analysis of differences and a 95% confidence interval on pMC values reveals that there is no significant difference between direct carbonate and graphite pMC values for 76% of analyzed specimens, although variation in direct carbonate pMC is underestimated. The difference between the two methods is typically within 2 pMC, with 61% of direct carbonate pMC measurements being higher than their paired graphite counterpart. Of the 36 specimens that did yield significant differences, all but three missed the 95% significance threshold by 1.2 pMC or less. These results show that direct carbonate 14C dating of biogenic carbonates is a cost-effective and efficient complement to standard graphite 14C dating.
Radiocarbon (14C) ages cannot provide absolutely dated chronologies for archaeological or paleoenvironmental studies directly but must be converted to calendar age equivalents using a calibration curve compensating for fluctuations in atmospheric 14C concentration. Although calibration curves are constructed from independently dated archives, they invariably require revision as new data become available and our understanding of the Earth system improves. In this volume the international 14C calibration curves for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, as well as for the ocean surface layer, have been updated to include a wealth of new data and extended to 55,000 cal BP. Based on tree rings, IntCal20 now extends as a fully atmospheric record to ca. 13,900 cal BP. For the older part of the timescale, IntCal20 comprises statistically integrated evidence from floating tree-ring chronologies, lacustrine and marine sediments, speleothems, and corals. We utilized improved evaluation of the timescales and location variable 14C offsets from the atmosphere (reservoir age, dead carbon fraction) for each dataset. New statistical methods have refined the structure of the calibration curves while maintaining a robust treatment of uncertainties in the 14C ages, the calendar ages and other corrections. The inclusion of modeled marine reservoir ages derived from a three-dimensional ocean circulation model has allowed us to apply more appropriate reservoir corrections to the marine 14C data rather than the previous use of constant regional offsets from the atmosphere. Here we provide an overview of the new and revised datasets and the associated methods used for the construction of the IntCal20 curve and explore potential regional offsets for tree-ring data. We discuss the main differences with respect to the previous calibration curve, IntCal13, and some of the implications for archaeology and geosciences ranging from the recent past to the time of the extinction of the Neanderthals.
As part of the ongoing effort to improve the Northern Hemisphere radiocarbon (14C) calibration curve, this study investigates the period of 856 BC to 626 BC (2805–2575 yr BP) with a total of 403 single-year 14C measurements. In this age range, IntCal13 was constructed largely from German and Irish oak as well as Californian bristlecone pine 14C dates, with most samples measured with a 10-yr resolution. The new data presented here is the first atmospheric 14C single-year record of the older end of the Hallstatt plateau based on an absolutely dated tree-ring chronology. The data helped reveal a major solar proton event (SPE) which caused a spike in the production rate of cosmogenic radionuclides around 2610/2609 BP. This production event is thought to have reached a magnitude similar to the 774/775 AD production event but has remained undetected due to averaging effects in the decadal calibration data. The record leading up to the 2610/2609 BP event reveals a 11-yr solar cycle with varying cyclicity. Features of the new data and the benefits of higher resolution calibration are discussed.
Archaeological sites in the Canadian Arctic often contain substantial quantities of marine mammal bones and in some cases completely lack terrestrial mammal bones. A distrust of radiocarbon (14C) dates on marine mammal bones among Arctic archaeologists has caused many sites to be insufficiently dated. The goal of this study was to investigate the marine reservoir effect on Atlantic walrus in the Foxe Basin region of the Canadian Arctic through a two-pronged approach: dating of live-harvested specimens of known age collected prior to AD 1955 and dating of pairs of animal remains (walrus and caribou) from stratigraphically contemporaneous levels within archaeological features. 14C dates on pre-bomb, live-harvested walrus indicate that a ΔR value of 160±50 yr be used in calibrating dates on walrus from this region. These results differed significantly from a similar set of pre-bomb mollusks, which argues against applying mollusk-based corrections to marine mammals. The results of comparative dating of caribou and walrus from archaeological features provided maximum estimates of reservoir ages that were more varied than the directly measured ages. Although about half of inferred ΔR values overlap the museum specimen results, the others indicate that the assumption of contemporaneity does not hold true.
We consider one misconception of those who currently reject the general validity of radiocarbon (14C) age determinations older than, at most, 10,000 BP. There is an allegation that the presence of 14C reported by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) laboratories in their measurements of 14C infinite age (>100,000 years) organics used to define background levels, support their point of view. This article has been written for a general audience, primarily for those who have questions about the validity of these arguments. However, they may not be familiar with the literature relevant to providing a clear response to the claims of these individuals. We conclude that, in our view, of all of the possible explanations for the reports of the presence of 14C in these background samples, the least probable explanation has been advanced by those rejecting the validity of the 14C time scale in excess of, at most, 10,000 BP.
While the North American archaeological record signals the presence of early humans along the northeastern Pacific coast by the Late Pleistocene, we know little about the technological systems employed by these coastally oriented colonizing groups. We here report the discovery of the earliest unequivocal evidence for the use and manufacture of shell fishhooks in the western hemisphere. Four single-piece shell fishhooks dating to the terminal Pleistocene/early Holocene transition (between ~11,300 and 10,700 cal B.P.) have been excavated on Isla Cedros, Baja California, Mexico. One hook is directly dated at 9495 ± 25 B.P. with a marine reservoir–corrected age of 11,165–9185 cal B.P. Radiocarbon ages associated with three other shell fishhooks range between 8900 ± 25 B.P. and 10,415 ± 25 B.P, while median ages for the earliest contexts confirm occupation of the island by at least 12,600–12,000 cal B.P. The stratigraphic levels from which the fishhooks were recovered contained a diverse assemblage of fish remains, including deepwater species, indicative of boat use. Thus, some of the earliest known inhabitants of the Pacific coast of the Americas employed shell hook and line technology for offshore marine fishing at least by the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, if not earlier.
Two century-scale time series in northern Bolivia constrain the ages of abrupt changes in the physical, geochemical, and biological characteristics of sediments obtained from lakes that formed during deglaciation from the late Pleistocene glacial maximum. The watersheds of Laguna Viscachani (16°12′S, 68°07′W, 3780 m) and Lago Taypi Chaka Kkota (16°13′S, 68°21′W, 4300 m), located on the eastern and western slopes of the Cordillera Real, respectively, contain small cirque glaciers. A high-resolution chronology of the lake sediments is provided by 23 AMS14C dates of discrete macrofossils. Late Pleistocene glaciers retreated rapidly, exposing the lake basins between 10,700 and 970014C yr B.P. The sedimentary facies suggest that after 890014C yr B.P. glaciers were absent from the watersheds and remained so during the middle Holocene. An increase in the precipitation–evaporation balance is indicated above unconformities dated to ∼230014C yr B.P. in both Lago Taypi Chaka Kkota and Laguna Viscachani. An abrupt increase in sediment accumulation rates after 140014C yr B.P. signals the onset of Neoglaciation. A possible link exists between the observed millennial-scale shifts in the regional precipitation–evaporation balance and seasonal shifts in tropical insolation.
Radiocarbon dating of bulk sediments has been the standard method for establishing chronologies in the studies of lake sediment cores which have contributed significantly to our knowledge of late Quaternary paleo-environments. These bulk sediment dates are presumed to be direct ageindicators for the speciments (e.g., pollen or macrofossils) which are actually being studied. However, several recent studies have reinforced long-standing apprehensions concerning this presumption. In this study, we demonstrate for the first time the radiocarbon dating of pollen concentrate samples by accelerator mass spectrometry. The dates obtained by this method should provide more reliable radiocarbon chronologies for paleo-environmental studies than have been obtainable by bulk sediment dating.
Combining atmospheric Δ14CO2 data sets from different networks or laboratories requires secure knowledge on their compatibility. In the present study, we compare Δ14CO2 results from the Heidelberg low-level counting (LLC) laboratory to 12 international accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) laboratories using distributed aliquots of five pure CO2 samples. The averaged result of the LLC laboratory has a measurement bias of –0.3±0.5‰ with respect to the consensus value of the AMS laboratories for the investigated atmospheric Δ14C range of 9.6 to 40.4‰. Thus, the LLC measurements on average are not significantly different from the AMS laboratories, and the most likely measurement bias is smaller than the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) interlaboratory compatibility goal for Δ14CO2 of 0.5‰. The number of intercomparison samples was, however, too small to determine whether the measurement biases of the individual AMS laboratories fulfilled the WMO goal.
Many studies use radiocarbon dates on estuarine shell material to build age-depth models of sediment accumulation in estuaries in California, USA. Marine 14C ages are typically older than dates from contemporaneous terrestrial carbon and local offsets (ΔR) from the global average marine offset need to be calculated to ensure the accuracy of calibrated dates. We used accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating on 40 pre-1950 salt marsh snail and clam shells previously collected from four California estuaries. The average ΔR and standard deviation of 217 ± 129 14C yr is consistent with previous calculations using mixed estuarine and marine samples, although the standard deviation and resulting age uncertainty was higher for our estuarine calculations than previous studies. There was a slight but significant difference (p = 0.024) in ΔR between epifaunal snails (ΔR = 171 ± 154 14C yr) and infaunal clams (ΔR = 263 ± 77 14C yr), as well as between samples from individual estuaries. However, a closer examination of the data shows that even for the same species, at the same estuary, ΔR can vary as much as ∼500 14C yr. In some cases, the bulk of this variation occurs between samples collected by different collectors at different times, potentially indicating time dependence in carbon sources and ΔR variation. These variations could also be attributed to differences in collection location within a single estuary and resulting spatial differences in carbon sources. Intertidal specimens located in the high marsh may have lower ΔR than fully marine counterparts because of increased terrestrial 14C input. The large variations in ΔR here highlight the need for conservative chronological interpretations, as well as the assumption of wide uncertainties, when dating samples from estuarine sources.
The IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon calibration curves have been revised utilizing newly available and updated data sets from 14C measurements on tree rings, plant macrofossils, speleothems, corals, and foraminifera. The calibration curves were derived from the data using the random walk model (RWM) used to generate IntCal09 and Marine09, which has been revised to account for additional uncertainties and error structures. The new curves were ratified at the 21st International Radiocarbon conference in July 2012 and are available as Supplemental Material at www.radiocarbon.org. The database can be accessed at http://intcal.qub.ac.uk/intcal13/.
We have developed a simple, rapid method to screen carbonates for survey applications, which provides radiocarbon dates with decreased precision at lower cost. The method is based on previous work by Longworth et al. (2011) and involves mixing pulverized CaCO3 with Fe powder, followed by pressing into aluminum target holders for direct 14C accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements. An optimum beam current averaging ∼10% of those produced by >0.7 mg C graphite targets was obtained for carbonate samples of 0.3–0.5 mg (0.04–0.06 mg C). The precision of the method was evaluated by measuring triplicates of 14C reference materials, as well as by comparing results from this rapid method with results from high-precision AMS measurements on graphite (typically 0.2–0.3%). Measurement reproducibility was ∼1.8% (1σ) for samples <10 ka BP, and it increased drastically for older samples. However, t tests on paired samples resulted in p values greater than 0.05, indicating a good correlation between this survey method and the conventional one. An average blank (calcite) of 0.0075 Fm (∼39 ka BP) was achieved. The simplicity of the technique allowed us to process and measure 72 deep-sea coral samples in less than 25 hr.
Four accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) facilities undertook an interlaboratory exercise designed to examine the reliability and reproducibility of radiocarbon determinations on bone by dating a sample of elk (Alces alces) from Miesenheim IV. This specimen is derived from a secure geological context directly beneath the Laacher See tephra, which provides a precise terminus ante quern of ∼11,060 yr BP (∼13,050 cal yr BP). Regrettably, the results of the intercomparison exercise were complicated by evident contamination of the bone sample by exogenous organic material. This contaminant, probably humic acid, resulted in a wide span of ages (10,010 ± 30 to 11,100 ± 45 BP). The only method that yielded an accurate determination, consistent with the age of the tephra, was Oxford's single amino acid technique, which targets hydroxyproline. An acid hydrolysis step seems to have been crucial in breaking the bonds between the bone collagen and the contaminant.
High-quality data from appropriate archives are needed for the continuing improvement of radiocarbon calibration curves. We discuss here the basic assumptions behind 14C dating that necessitate calibration and the relative strengths and weaknesses of archives from which calibration data are obtained. We also highlight the procedures, problems, and uncertainties involved in determining atmospheric and surface ocean 14C/12C in these archives, including a discussion of the various methods used to derive an independent absolute timescale and uncertainty. The types of data required for the current IntCal database and calibration curve model are tabulated with examples.
We submit that anomalies in radiocarbon data in archaeological studies should be viewed positively as a stimulus to undertake further targeted research. Additional analyses to resolve anomalies have the potential to provide important insights into heretofore unstudied or incompletely understood depositional or geochemical processes affecting 14C values, particularly in certain types of samples and samples from certain types of environments. We consider 2 major categories or sources of 14C dating anomalies that we posit are mostly responsible for the vast majority of problematic 14C results: anomalous sample contexts and anomalous sample composition. Two additional sources of 14C anomalies are much more rarely encountered. Six case studies taken from New World archaeological studies are briefly presented to provide examples of where questions concerning the validity of 14C measurements generated additional and ultimately more accurate understandings of temporal relationships. AMS-based 14C measurement technology has rendered detailed investigations of 14C anomalies routinely feasible.
We establish a precision accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon chronology for the Archaic period Tlacuachero shellmound (Chiapas, Mexico) within a Bayesian statistical framework. Carbonized twig samples were sequentially selected from well-defined stratigraphic contexts based on iterative improvements to a probabilistic chronological model. Analytical error for these measurements is ±15 to 20 14C yr. This greater precision and the absence of stratigraphic reversals eclipses previous 14C work at the site. Based on this, we establish a chronological framework for a sequence of 3 clay floors dating to between 4930 and 4270 cal BP and determine that the bedded shell deposits that formed the mound accumulated rapidly during 2 episodes: a lower 2-m section below the floors that accumulated over a 0–150 cal yr period at 5050–4875 cal BP and, an upper 3.5-m section above the floors that accumulated over a 0–80 cal yr period at 4380–4230 cal BP.
We report compound-specific radiocarbon analyses of organic matter in ocean sediments from the northeast Pacific Ocean. Chemical extractions and a preparative capillary gas chromatograph (PCGC) were used to isolate phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) and n-alkanes from 3 cores collected off the coast of California, USA. Mass of samples for accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C analysis ranged from 13–100 μg C. PLFA extracted from anaerobic sediments in the Santa Barbara Basin (595 m depth) had modern Δ14C values (–20 to +54‰), indicating bacterial utilization of surface-produced, post-bomb organic matter. Lower Δ14C values were obtained for n-alkanes and PLFA from coast (92 m depth) and continental slope (1866 m) sediments, which reflect sources of old organic matter and bioturbation. We present a brief analysis of the blank carbon introduced to samples during chemical processing and PCGC isolation.
We present a status report of the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) facility at the University of California, Irvine, USA. Recent spectrometer upgrades and repairs are discussed. Modifications to preparation laboratory procedures designed to improve sample throughput efficiency while maintaining precision of 2–3‰ for 1-mg samples (Santos et al. 2007c) are presented.
Primary and secondary standards are essential in radiocarbon analyses for the purpose of reporting and comparing data among laboratories, as well as for internal laboratory data quality control. ANU sucrose is one of the IAEA-certified 14C standards (C-6) with a consensus value of 1.5061 ± 0.0011 fraction modern (Fm). All of our measurements of ANU sucrose (n = 351) as a secondary standard over the last 7 yr result in an average value of 1.5016 ± 0.0005 Fm (2-σ standard error). After applying the same outlier tests used for IAEA reference standards, a weighted average value of 1.5016 ± 0.0002 Fm (n = 294) was calculated. This value is significantly lower than the IAEA C-6 consensus value (t test with unequal variance; p = 0.023). In contrast, our measurements of other secondary standards over the same time period are in excellent agreement with their respective consensus values. Since ANU is the only secondary standard measured in our lab that does not agree with the consensus values, and we have measured a larger number analyses compared to what went into the definition of the consensus value, we suggest that the consensus value of ANU sucrose might be too high by ∼0.0045 ± 0.0011 Fm. Given that some labs routinely use ANU sucrose as a primary standard, our results suggest that revisiting the consensus value of ANU sucrose may be necessary.