The Prehistoric Archaeology Blog is concerned with news reports featuring Prehistoric period archaeology. If you wish to see news reports for general European archaeology, please go to The Archaeology of Europe Weblog.
Friday, October 19, 2012
‘Time-capsule’ Japanese lake sediment advances radiocarbon dating for older objects
A new series of radiocarbon measurements from Japan’s Lake Suigetsu
will give scientists a more accurate benchmark for dating materials,
especially for older objects, according to a research team that included
Oxford University’s Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit.
The research team extracted cores of beautifully preserved layers of
sediment, containing organic material (such as tree leaf and twig
fossils), from the bottom of the Japanese lake where they had lain
undisturbed for tens of thousands of years. As an article in the journal
Science explains, the findings are hugely significant because
they provide a much more precise way to examine radiocarbon ages of
organic material for the entire 11,000-53,000-year time range. For
example, archaeologists should now be able to pinpoint more accurately
the timing of the extinction of Neanderthals or the spread of modern
humans into Europe.
At the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Professor Christopher
Ramsey with his doctoral student Richard Staff and chemist Dr Fiona
Brock worked with two other radiocarbon laboratories (the NERC facility
at East Kilbride, Scotland, and Groningen in the Netherlands) on the
radiocarbon record from the lake. This research is part of a large
international research team, led by Professor Takeshi Nakagawa of
Newcastle University, studying the cores for clues about past climate
and environmental change.