The University of Arizona

Alternative Explanations for Anomalous 14C Ages on Human Skeletons Associated with the 612 BCE Destruction of Nineveh

R E Taylor, W C Beaumont, J Southon, D Stronach, D Pickworth

Abstract


Three factors--contamination, a dietary reservoir effect, and a regional ∆14C anomaly?are considered as possible contributing explanations for an almost 2-century offset between the historically documented age of 612 BCE and the calibrated ages of 9 14C determinations obtained on 3 human skeletons directly associated stratigraphically with an archaeologically?and historically?defined 612 BCE event at the ancient site of Nineveh in northern Mesopotamia (Iraq). We note that on the order of a 1% (~80 yr) offset caused by one or a combination of these 3 factors, or other as yet unidentified additional factor(s), would be sufficient to move the average measured 14C age of these bone samples within the major "warp" in the 14C timescale during the mid-1st millennium BCE. We provide what we believe to be sufficient evidence that contamination is not a major factor in the case of these bone samples. At this time, we lack appropriate data to determine with sufficient rigor the degree to which a dietary reservoir effect may be contributing to the offset. At present, a posited regional ∆14C anomaly does not appear to be supported on the basis of data from several other localities in the Near East of similar age. One purpose of presenting this data set is to solicit comparisons with 14C values obtained on samples from additional, historically well-documented, known-age archaeological contexts for this time period in this and adjacent regions.

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