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Identification, Extraction, and Preparation of Reliable Lime Samples for 14C Dating of Plasters and Mortars with the “Pure Lime Lumps” Technique

Giovanni L A Pesce, Richard J Ball, Gianluca Quarta, Lucio Calcagnile

Abstract


Radiocarbon dating was first applied to historic lime mortars during the 1960s. However, despite the relative simplicity of the technique in principle, a number of subsequent studies have highlighted important aspects that should be considered. One of the most significant of these challenges arises from sample contamination by carbonaceous substances such as incompletely burnt limestone and aggregates of fossil origin containing “dead” 14C. More recent studies have shown that in the majority of old lime-based mixtures the contamination problem can be avoided through selection of pure lime lumps. These particular types of lumps are believed to originate from areas where the lime is incompletely mixed with the aggregate. It has been demonstrated that even a single lime lump can provide sufficient material for a 14C date of the mortar from which the lump was taken (Pesce et al. 2009). This paper describes the practical challenges associated with location, extraction, and preparation of 4 lime lumps extracted from 2 new sites for 14C dating. These include distinguishing the lime lumps from other lumps present in the matrix and the removal of material surrounding the lime lump. The coherence of 14C dating with other archaeological information on the chronology of historic sites is highlighted through case studies.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16145


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