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14C Dating of the Early Natufian at el-Wad Terrace, Mount Carmel, Israel: Methodology and Materials Characterization

Eileen Eckmeier, Reuven Yeshurun, Mina Weinstein-Evron, Eugenia Mintz, Elisabetta Boaretto


The Natufian (15–11.5 kyr BP) sites in the southern Levant are characterized by a lack of macrobotanical remains, including charcoal, and poor preservation of bone collagen. As a result, only about 30 reliable radiocarbon dates are available for building a chronology of the Natufian period. Here, we present new 14C data from the Natufian site of el-Wad terrace that fall in the range of the Early Natufian period. Using Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) analysis, we investigated the environmental factors that influenced the preservation of material for 14C dating of the site, and we tested a modified pretreatment method for poorly preserved charcoal samples. The normal pretreatment protocol for 14C samples (W-ABA) removed more charcoal material than the modified method, which omits the first acid treatment (W-BA). This first acid step seems to enhance the extraction of humic substances during the subsequent base step. We found that the poor preservation of charcoal could be attributed to the presence of calcite, and therefore an alkaline pH of sediments. The most important factor determining bone collagen preservation may have been the hydrological setting, i.e. fluctuating water levels due to oversatu-ration of the dense sediments after rainfall.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16166

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