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Potential of the Radiocarbon Method for Dating Known Historical Events: The Case of Yaroslavl, Russia

A V Engovatova, G I Zaitseva, M V Dobrovolskaya, N D Burova


We address here the methodological question of potentially using the radiocarbon method for dating historical events. The archaeological investigations in Yaroslavl (central Russia) provide an example. The Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IARAS) has been conducting excavations at the site for many years, and many archaeological complexes dating to different times have come to light. The most interesting of these are connected with the founding of the city by Prince Yaroslav the Wise in AD 1010 (the first fortifications) and with the devastation of the city by the Tatar Mongols in 1238 (evidenced by sanitary mass burials of Yaroslavl’s inhabitants). We have conducted a certain experiment, a “reverse” investigation of the chronology of the events. The dates of the events are known from chronicles, archaeological materials, and dendrochronological data for several assemblages. We have taken a large series of 14C samples from the same assemblages, dated them in 2 different laboratories, and compared the data. The accuracy of the 14C dates proved to be compatible with dates found via the archaeological material. The article shows the potential for 14C dating of archaeological assemblages connected with known historical events. The results of the research conducted by the authors serve as an additional argument for the broader use of the 14C dating method in studies of archaeological sites related to the Middle Ages in Russia.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16170

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