The University of Arizona

High-Precision Radiocarbon Dating of the Construction Phase of Oakbank Crannog, Loch Tay, Perthshire

G T Cook, T N Dixon, N Russell, P Naysmith, S Xu, B Andrian

Abstract


Many of the Loch Tay crannogs were built in the Early Iron Age and so calibration of the radiocarbon ages produces very broad calendar age ranges due to the well-documented Hallstatt plateau in the calibration curve. However, the large oak timbers that were used in the construction of some of the crannogs potentially provide a means of improving the precision of the dating through subdividing them into decadal or subdecadal increments, dating them to high precision and wiggle-matching the resulting data to the master 14C calibration curve. We obtained a sample from 1 oak timber from Oakbank Crannog comprising 70 rings (Sample OB06 WMS 1, T103) including sapwood that was complete to the bark edge. The timber is situated on the northeast edge of the main living area of the crannog and as a large and strong oak pile would have been a useful support in more than 1 phase of occupation and may be related to the earliest construction phase of the site. This was sectioned into 5-yr increments and dated to a precision of approximately ±8-16 14C yr (1 σ). The wiggle-match predicts that the last ring dated was formed around 500 BC (maximum range of 520-465 BC) and should be taken as indicative of the likely time of construction of Oakbank Crannog. This is a considerable improvement on the estimates based on single 14C ages made on oak samples, which typically encompassed the period from around 800-400 BC.

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