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Dating of prehistoric burial mounds by (super 14) C analysis of soil organic matter fractions.

Soren M Kristiansen, Kristian Dalsgaard, Mads K Holst, Bent Aaby, Jan Heinemeier


Dating of prehistoric anthropogenic earthworks requires either excavation for archaeological artifacts or macroscopic organic matter suitable for (super 14) C analysis. Yet, the former, in many cases, is undesirable and the latter is difficult to obtain. Here we present a soil science procedure, which has the potential to overcome these problems. It includes careful sampling of buried former soil surfaces, acid-alkali-acid fractionation of soil organic matter (SOM), and subsequent (super 14) C AMS dating. To test the procedure, soil from one of the largest known burial mounds in Scandinavia, Hohoj, and 9 other Danish burial mounds were sampled. The (super 14) C dates from extracted SOM fractions were compared to reference ages obtained by other methods. We show that humic acid fractions in 7 of the 10 mounds had the same age as the reference, or were, at maximum, 280 yr older than the reference ages. The best age estimates were derived from an organic-rich layer from the upper cm of buried soil or sod. Differences among SOM fraction ages probably indicate the reliability of the dating. Hohoj dated to approximately 1400 BC and, thus, was up to 500 yr older than other dated Scandinavian mounds of comparable size. The remaining investigated burial mounds were dated to between 1700 and 1250 BC. We conclude that combined sampling of buried soil surfaces, SOM fractionation, and (super 14) C analysis allows for dating of archaeological earthworks when minimal disturbance is required, or if no macroscopic organic remains are found.


burial mounds;Denmark;accelerator mass spectra;organic carbon;mass spectra;spectra;archaeological sites;Holocene;upper Holocene;soils;organic compounds;Europe;Western Europe;Scandinavia;Cenozoic;Quaternary;C 14;carbon;isotopes;radioactive isotopes;absolute age

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