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The Course of 14C Dating Does Not Run Smooth: Tree-Rings, Radiocarbon, and Potential Impacts of a Calibration Curve Wiggle on Dating Mesopotamian Chronology

Sturt Manning, Gojko Barjamovic, Brita Lorentzen


We review evidence for near-absolute calendar date estimates for the Waršama Palace at Kültepe and the Sarıkaya Palace at Acemhöyük (Turkey) in light of a forensic examination of the radiocarbon calibration curve. Both palaces can be linked indirectly (but closely) to the Assyrian Revised Eponym List (REL) and can thus be connected with the Mesopotamian historical chronology. The possible relevance of some apparent features of detail in the radiocarbon calibration dataset is noted. In particular, we explore a wiggle-match of the dendro-14C sequences from the palaces employing the IntCal98 calibration curve, which better represents what we argue seems to be a pronounced “wiggle” in contemporary atmospheric 14C ages around 1835 BCE. This “wiggle” is missing in the more smoothed IntCal13 curve (the current standard northern hemisphere radiocarbon calibration curve). Using IntCal98, we find a best fit 8 years later than previously suggested. We suggest that this issue of “detail” requires further investigation in order to achieve a precise solution for Mesopotamian chronology. If this wiggle is relevant, we find that the dendro-14C-derived dates are more in agreement with the Low Middle Chronology, thus refining previous conclusions. This result is also discussed in the framework of the radiocarbon-backed high Middle Bronze Age chronology for the southern Levant and a recently published radiocarbon date for Illahun Papyrus 10012B, reporting the anticipated rise of Sothis, one of the key-anchors of Egyptian historical chronology.

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