• A Radiocarbon Age Calculation Program for Windows

      Gallagher, D.; McGee, E. J.; Mitchell, P. I. (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2002-01-01)
      The management of counting files, the calculation of radiocarbon age, and the creation and maintenance of databases for storage and retrieval of laboratory data are time-consuming and exacting tasks. These routine functions are essential to the successful operation of all 14C dating laboratories. However, since the number of 14C dating laboratories worldwide is rather limited, it is unlikely that a commercial software company will produce a program for use in 14C age calculation and associated data management. We have therefore developed Windows based software to meet some of these needs. The program described here offers a user-friendly interface to assist with: Execution of age and error calculations; Reducing the possibility of human error during the lengthy age calculation procedure; Developing a single entry system that simultaneously runs dating algorithms and compiles a database of all samples processed by a laboratory. We now make the program and the program code available to the 14C dating community. We hope that this program will be a useful tool in routine laboratory operation and can be further developed in the future.
    • Are the 14C Dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls Affected by Castor Oil Contamination?

      Carmi, Israel (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2002-01-01)
      The paper "The effects of possible contamination on the radiocarbon dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls I: castor oil" by Rasmussen et al. (2001) is discussed. Detailed analysis of the extant dates of the Dead Sea Scrolls suggests that the pretreatment of the samples was adequate. Errors and omissions in the paper are discussed and the implications of the experiment of Rasmussen et al. (2001) are questioned.
    • Challenges in Radiocarbon Dating Organic Carbon in Opal-Rich Marine Sediments

      Zheng, Yan; Anderson, Robert F.; Froelich, Philip N.; Beck, Warren; McNichol, Ann P.; Guilderson, Thomas (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2002-01-01)
      We explored the reliability of radiocarbon ages obtained on organic carbon phases in opal-rich Southern Ocean sediments. Paired biogenic carbonate and total organic carbon (TOC) 14C analyses for three Southern Ocean cores showed that the TOC ages were systematically younger than the carbonate ages. Carbonate ages were consistent with oxygen isotopic and bio-stratigraphy, indicating error in TOC ages that could be explained by 5-24% of modern carbon contamination of TOC samples. Two possible sources of contamination are: 1) adsorption of atmospheric CO2 or volatile organic compounds to reactive opal surface sites, and 2) fixation of atmospheric CO2 by chemosynthetic bacteria during core storage. In an effort to reduce the modern carbon contamination, diatoms were separated from sediments, purified, and pre-oxidized by concentrated nitric and perchloric acids to permit dating of opal-intrinsic organic carbon (approximately 0.1-0.3% by weight). 14C ages of chemically pre-oxidized opal showed a significant amount of modern carbon contamination, from 11 to 32%, indicating adsorption from the atmosphere of modern carbon onto opal surfaces that were previously cleaned by acid oxidation. Several experiments designed to eliminate the modern C contamination were attempted, but so far we have not been able to obtain a radiocarbon age on 14C-dead Southern Ocean opal-rich sediments, either bulk TOC or purified diatom opal samples, as old as our procedural blank.
    • Differences in 14C Age Between Stratigraphically Associated Charcoal and Marine Shell from the Archaic Period Site of Kilometer 4, Southern Peru: Old Wood or Old Water?

      Kennett, Douglas J.; Ingram, B. Lynn; Southon, John R.; Wise, Karen (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2002-01-01)
      Consistently large differences occur in the calibrated 14C ages of stratigraphically associated shell and charcoal samples from Kilometer 4, an Archaic Period archaeological site located on the extreme south coast of Peru. A series of nine shell and charcoal samples were collected from a Late Archaic Period (approximately 6000-4000 BP) sector of the site. After calibration, the intercepts of the charcoal dates were approximately 100-750 years older than the paired shell samples. Due to the hyper-arid conditions in this region that promote long-term preservation of organic material, we argue that the older charcoal dates are best explained by people using old wood for fuel during the Middle Holocene. Given this "old wood" problem, marine shell may actually be preferable to wood charcoal for dating archaeological sites in coastal desert environments as in southern Peru and Northern Chile.
    • The Use of Raman Spectroscopy to Monitor the Removal of Humic Substances from Charcoal: Quality Control for 14C Dating of Charcoal

      Alon, Dani; Mintz, Genia; Cohen, Illit; Weiner, Steve; Boaretto, Elisabetta (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2002-01-01)
      One of the largest sources of uncertainty in radiocarbon dating stems from the sample pretreatment procedures used to minimize contamination. A major source of carbon contamination in charcoal from archaeological sites is humic substances carried by groundwater. Here we present a method, independent of 14C dating itself, to evaluate the effectiveness of the cleaning procedure of charcoal. Raman spectra of mixtures of humic substances (HS) and laboratory prepared charcoal indicate that Raman spectroscopy can be used as a semi-quantitative measure of the amount of humic substances associated with archaeological charcoal. Raman spectral analysis of archaeological charcoal samples subjected to different cleaning regimes supports this contention. Such measurements can provide quality control for charcoal preparation procedures and may assist in the interpretation of carbon-dating results.