The University of Arizona

14C Mortar Dating: The Case of the Medieval Shayzar Citadel, Syria

Sara Nonni, Fabio Marzaioli, Michele Secco, Isabella Passariello, Manuela Capano, Carmine Lubritto, Silvano Mignardi, Cristina Tonghini, Filippo Terrasi


This paper reports the results from applying the Cryo2SoniC (Cryobreaking, Sonication, Centrifugation) protocol to some lime mortars sampled from the citadel of Shayzar (Syria). The overall aims of this project are 1) to use the properties offered by high-precision accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating for the evaluation of absolute chronology with its typical robust time constraints (i.e. 25 14C yr), and 2) to apply the dating directly to the citadel structures in order to prevent possible biasing effects potentially affecting indirect 14C dating on organic materials found at the study site. The analyses presented in this paper have been mainly performed as a preliminary check of the Cryo2SoniC methodology in order to assess its applicability to this study site by comparing observed mortar results with archaeological expectations about the citadel development phasing and charcoals found encased in mortars. Petrographic and mineralogical thin-section analyses by optical microscopy (TSOM), X-ray powder diffraction (XRD), and scanning electron microscopy plus energy dispersive spectroscopy (SEM/EDS) investigations were carried out for characterization of the mortar samples to verify the occurrence of some features, related to their production technology, which may introduce dating offsets. The resulting 14C calibrated ages were in agreement with the archaeological expectations based on type and stratigraphic site reconstructions, in situ inscriptions, and written sources. Such results showed also a general (with 1 exception) statistical agreement among the charcoals and the analyzed mortars simultaneously, confirming the archaeological expectations for the Shayzar citadel. Results presented in this paper indicate good accuracy for the applied procedure for chronology reconstruction and highlight the capability of Cryo2SoniC to further characterize the Shayzar site.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16337


mortar; archaeology; charcoal; protocol

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