The University of Arizona

Aquatic Radiocarbon Reservoir Offsets in the Southeastern Baltic

Gytis Piličiauskas, Carl Heron


The aim of this article is to discuss radiocarbon dating offsets due to freshwater and marine reservoir effects (FRE and MRE, respectively) in the southeastern Baltic. Thirty-six 14C dates from Lithuanian coastal and inland Subneolithic, Neolithic, and Bronze Age sites as well as two Mesolithic-Neolithic cemeteries are presented here. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates, sometimes paired or tripled, have been obtained on samples of various origin, foodcrusts, or visible charred deposits adhering to the surfaces of ceramic vessel walls were also dated and investigated for stable isotope signals. The results argue for a significant freshwater component in the food processed in ceramic vessels during the Subneolithic and Neolithic. Paired dating of ungulate and human bones at the Spiginas and Donkalnis cemeteries (6300–1900 cal BC) does not suggest an FRE, although stable isotope data on human bone collagen strongly suggest a large input of freshwater food in the diet. An FRE in the order of 320–510 yr was estimated for the Šventoji paleolagoon around 3000 cal BC. At the same time, the FRE of the Curonian Lagoon could be larger as implied by large apparent 14C ages of modern pike-perch (981 ± 30 BP) and bream (738 ± 30 BP) bones as well as “foodcrust” offsets (650–530 yr) at Nida (3500–2500 cal BC). An MRE of 190 ± 43 yr was estimated for the southeastern coast of the Littorina Sea according to offsets between dates of seal bones and terrestrial samples at Nida and Šventoji. Any FRE at Lake Kretuonas remains uncertain due to the limited work to date.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18447


Southeastern Baltic; Nida; Sventoji; Subneolithic; Neolithic; freshwater and marine reservoir effects; stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes; diet; AMS dates; 'foodcrusts'

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