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The rate of calcite formation and the isotopic fractionation in lime mortar during the process of mortar setting were examined. The diffusion rate of atmospheric CO2 in the sample is the rate-controlling step of the chemical reaction. A Rayleigh diffusion in the mortar causes an enrichment of 13C and 18O in the samples.
Recent studies comparing dates from the carbon content of mortars with dendrochronologic dates for the same material have shown considerable inconsistencies related to mortar type (Van Strydonck et al, 1985). Even after the best possible removal of “dead” calcite, some mortars are unsuitable for dating. We describe here our experimental study of carbon isotope fractionation during the manufacture and hardening of mortars. Preliminary experiments established overall uptake of CO2 from the air. We then measured isotopic ratios in identical mortars at different hardening times.
The influence of the aggregate in mortar dating is examined. Sample activity as well as isotopic fractionation approach the expected values at lower yields of the preparation reaction of the counting gas. Good results are obtained at low fossil carbonate concentration. δ13C cannot give information about this concentration but preliminary visual and chemical analysis of the mortar makes prediction of sample validity possible.
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