• Development of the Radiocarbon Calibration Program

      Bronk Ramsey, Christopher (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2001-01-01)
      This paper highlights some of the main developments to the radiocarbon calibration program, OxCal. In addition to many cosmetic changes, the latest version of OxCal uses some different algorithms for the treatment of multiple phases. The theoretical framework behind these is discussed and some model calculations demonstrated. Significant changes have also been made to the sampling algorithms used which improve the convergence of the Bayesian analysis. The convergence itself is also reported in a more comprehensive way so that problems can be traced to specific parts of the model. The use of convergence data, and other techniques for testing the implications of particular models, are described.
    • Radiocarbon Dating of Single Compounds Isolated from Pottery Cooking Vessel Residues

      Stott, A. W.; Berstan, R.; Evershed, P.; Hedges, Robert E. M.; Bronk Ramsey, Christopher; Humm, M. J. (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2001-01-01)
      We have developed and demonstrated a practical methodology for dating specific compounds (and octadecanoic or stearic acid—C18:0—in particular) from the lipid material surviving in archaeological cooking pots. Such compounds may be extracted from about 10 g of cooking potsherd, and, after derivatization, can be purified by gas chromatography. To obtain sufficient material for precise dating repetitive, accumulating, GC separation is necessary. Throughout the 6000-year period studied, and over a variety of site environments within England, dates on C18:0 show no apparent systematic error, but do have a greater variability than can be explained by the errors due to the separation chemistry and measurement process alone. This variability is as yet unexplained. Dates on C16:0 show greater variability and a systematic error of approximately 100-150 years too young, and it is possible that this is due to contamination from the burial environment. Further work should clarify this.
    • The Chemical and Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Archaeological Wood Cellulose and Monosaccharide Purification by High pH Anion Exchange Chromatography for Compound-Specific Radiocarbon Dating

      Hodgins, Gregory L.; Butters, T. D.; Bronk Ramsey, Christopher; Hedges, Robert E. M. (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2001-01-01)
      Preliminary experiments were carried out on archaeological wood to investigate methods of cellulose hydrolysis and carbohydrate monomer purification for the purpose of compound-specific radiocarbon dating. The Chelford log, a known 14C dead source of wood cellulose, was selected for study in order to investigate the levels of contamination introduced during sample purification. Two methods of hydrolysis were examined, mineral acid hydrolysis and enzyme hydrolysis using cellulase from Penicillium funiculosum. Under the conditions described, enzymolysis was far superior to acid hydrolysis in terms of the glucose monomer yield. Glucose monomer purification was accomplished using high pH anion exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection. This high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method does not require sample derivatization and the chromatography products can be collected in water. These characteristics make it potentially well suited to carbon dating applications. 14C dating of chromatographically purified glucose fractions revealed significant levels of contamination had accumulated during both protocols. Glucose contamination from the cellulase enzyme preparation was a major source of contamination within the enzymatically hydrolyzed samples. Ultrafiltration of the enzyme removed some but not all of this contamination. The contamination must be reduced 10-fold before the methodology could be viable for dating. This hydrolysis/HPLC method is also being investigated for 14C dating of other carbohydrate polymers such as chitin.
    • 'Wiggle Matching’ Radiocarbon Dates

      Bronk Ramsey, Christopher; van der Plicht, Johannes; Weninger, B. (Department of Geosciences, The University of Arizona, 2001-01-01)
      This paper covers three different methods of matching radiocarbon dates to the "wiggles" of the calibration curve in those situations where the age difference between the 14C dates is known. These methods are most often applied to tree-ring sequences. The simplest approach is to use a classical Chi-squared fit of the 14C data to the 14C curve. This gives the calendar date where the data fit best and allows tests of how good the fit is. The only drawback of this method is that it is difficult to ascertain the uncertainty in the date found in this way. An extension of this technique uses a Monte-Carlo simulation to sample possible 14C concentrations consistent with the measurement made and for each of these possibilities performs a Chi-squared fit. This method yields a distribution of values in the calendrical time-scale, from which the overall dating uncertainty can be derived. A third, rather different approach, based on Bayesian statistics, calculates the relative likelihood of each possible calendar year fit. This can then be used to calculate a range of most likely dates in a similar way to the probability method of 14C calibration. The theories underlying all three methods are discussed in this paper and a comparison made for the fitting of specific model sequences. All three methods are found to give consistent results and the application of any one of them depends on the nature of the scientific question being addressed.