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14C Dating of Fire-Damaged Mortars from Medieval Finland

Alf Lindroos, Lior Regev, Markku Oinonen, Åsa Ringbom, Jan Heinemeier


This study focuses on radiocarbon dating of mortars that have withstood city fires and display visible fire damage effects. Some fire-damaged and undamaged original Medieval mortars from the same site have also been tested. The mortars were heated at different temperatures and then analyzed using the same preparation procedures as in 14C dating of mortars to see what kind of changes the heating would introduce to the mineralogy, chemistry, and the carbon and oxygen isotope ratios. We found that decarbonation during heating starts at ~600 °C and recarbonation starts as soon as the temperature drops. Already after a few days, most of the lost CO2 has been replaced with atmospheric CO2. The renewed carbonates are readily soluble in the acid hydrolysis process and their carbon and oxygen isotopes have a light signature. Fire-damaged historical mortars display the same features. If a long time has elapsed between hardening of the original mortar and the fire, the new carbonates have 14C concentrations that point to the fire event rather than to the building event. In several cases, the fire-damaged mortars have an easily soluble carbonate fraction with a 14C age that could be related to a major fire event, but still most of the soluble carbonate yields a 14C age that seems like a reasonable age for the original construction.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16233

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