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Plaster Characterization at the PPNB Site of Yiftahel (Israel) Including the Use of 14C: Implications for Plaster Production, Preservation, and Dating

Kristin M Poduska, Lior Regev, Francesco Berna, Eugenia Mintz, Ianir Milevski, Hamudi Khalaily, Steve Weiner, Elisabetta Boaretto


The Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) site of Yiftahel, Israel, contains abundant plaster floors. We surveyed the states of preservation of the plasters using an infrared spectroscopic assay that characterizes the extent of disorder of the atoms in the calcite crystal lattice. We identified the 3 best-preserved plaster samples that had disorder signatures most similar to modern plaster. We then studied the surface layers, fine-grained matrices, and large aggregates of these samples using micromorphology, Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) microscopy, stable carbon and radiocarbon concentrations. Even though some of the plaster components have a geogenic appearance in micromorphology slides and in FTIR spectra, the 14C analyses show that all components were exposed to high temperatures and as a result were equilibrated with the 14C content of the atmosphere ~10,000 yr ago. This implies that the plasters at Yiftahel were produced entirely from heat-altered calcite. We also show that these plasters have undergone significant diagenesis. The plaster component with the most disordered atomic signature, and hence the most similar in this respect to modern plaster, did indeed produce a 14C date close to the expected age.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16163

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