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Anomalous radiocarbon dates from Easter Island.

Kevin Butler, Christine A Prior, John R. Fenley


The largest volcanic crater on Easter Island in the South Pacific contains a lake 1 km in diameter with large floating mats of vegetation, mainly Scirpus californicus. A core taken through a mat near the center produced anomalous dates, with older dates above younger ones. The possibility that the mat had become inverted was considered, but palynological evidence refutes this idea because it shows a progressive upward decline of forest pollen, which is well known from other swamp cores on the island. A new series of radiocarbon dates made directly on pollen concentrates was obtained. These dates also produced inconsistencies, particularly when pollen concentrate ages were compared with (super 14) C ages on plant fragments from the same depth. This series of (super 14) C ages seems to indicate that both old and young organic components in the sediment are deposited contiguously and that the depositional history of these cores is more complex than previously known. Previous age determinations on bulk sediments from Easter Island, which also show anomalous dates, may be too simplistic. This paper provides a warning to other researchers dating sediments from Easter Island. We suggest that sample selection and dating procedures be carefully considered for these sediments.


absolute age;C 14;calibration ;carbon ;Cenozoic ;chronology ;cores ;crater lakes;dates ;East Pacific Ocean Islands;Easter Island;Holocene ;isotopes ;lacustrine environment;lake sediments;lakes ;miospores ;palynomorphs ;pollen ;Quaternary ;radioactive isotopes;Rano Aroi;Rano Kau;Rano Raraku;Scirpus ;Scirpus californicus;sediments ;vegetation

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