The University of Arizona

Radiocarbon and the Archaeological Record: An Integrative Approach for Building an Absolute Chronology for the Late Bronze and Iron Ages of Israel

Elisabetta Boaretto


The establishment of an absolute chronology for the Late Bronze and Iron Ages in the southern Levant would make it possible to use changes in material culture in order to study the impact of trade, dissemination of knowledge, and the impact of climate on historical processes. To achieve this, a detailed absolute chronology is needed for individual sites and on a regional scale with a resolution that can differentiate events within a century. To realize this challenging goal, only samples from well-established primary contexts ought to be studied. Such primary contexts (with “dating assemblages”) can be identified by combining macroscopic with microscopic observations. Chronological studies at the sites of Qubur el-Walaydah, Tel es-Safi, and in particular, Megiddo, demonstrate that high-resolution dating can be achieved, with very few outliers in the data sets. The major limitation on applying this approach is the fact that we are currently constrained to dating short-lived samples (charred seeds and olive pits) and collagen from bones. Thus, an immediate goal of radiocarbon research is to develop the ability to date other short-lived materials, such as organic material occluded in siliceous plant phytoliths, wood ash, and possibly organic residues preserved in pottery vessels.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_rc.57.18554


Radiocarbon; Levant; Iron Age; Stratigraphy; Primary context

Full Text: