radiocarbon dating

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Science Notes – Radiocarbon dating gets a facelift

Every few years, the radiocarbon calibration curve used to determine the calendar dates of almost all 14C measurements gets updated. The last recalibration was in 2013. Called IntCal13, it was based on 7,019 raw data points. This year, a major revamp – one of the biggest since its inception – has taken place and the new IntCal20 now takes into consideration more than 12,900 measurements. As with previous versions, the separate curves for samples from the Southern Hemisphere (SHCal20) and from marine reservoirs (Marine20) have also been updated. In this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we break down the history of these curves and dissect some of IntCal20’s new ‘features’.

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Science Notes – Bridging the gap in London’s prehistory

Over recent decades, developments in radiocarbon dating techniques have revolutionised our ability to establish the age of archaeological material and to interpret the past (see CA 359). In this month’s Science Notes we will be exploring how, thanks to further advances in this field, ‘the most significant group of Early Neolithic pottery ever uncovered in London’ has shed intriguing light on the capital’s prehistoric past.

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Remains of St Eanswythe found in Folkestone?

Recent scientific tests on human remains kept for centuries in the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe in Folkestone, Kent, have suggested that they are likely to be those of Eanswythe herself.

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Hiding in plain sight: a ‘lost’ medieval tower in Derry?

New evidence, brought to light by researchers from Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) and local historians from the Derry Tower Heritage Group, suggests that a ‘lost’ medieval round tower may in fact have been hiding in plain sight in the heart of Derry City for centuries.

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Neolithic hearth found in Jersey?

A well-preserved prehistoric hearth has been discovered 5ft below the surface during a commercial watching brief on a pipe trench in St Clement, southeast Jersey, which was carried out by the Société Jersiaise’s Field Archaeologist Robert Waterhouse.

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Science Notes – Revisiting radiocarbon: no, it has not been debunked

In today’s era of ‘fake news’, we haven’t been entirely surprised to see recent headlines claiming new research has proven that radiocarbon dating is inaccurate or plain wrong (one even went so far as to say ‘A Crucial Archaeological Dating Tool is Wrong, and It Could Change History as We Know It’). To be fair, once you get past the headlines, the articles mostly provide a bit more of the truth and a little less clickbait. Nonetheless, we thought it pertinent to delve into the actual science of this discovery and offer a more impartial, if less sensationalist, account of the findings.

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Science Notes – Updating radiocarbon-dating techniques

In last month’s ‘Science Notes’ we took you on a tour of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, discussing the intricacies of radiocarbon dating. There is the risk of portraying the process as fixed and static, but it is always being updated with new treatments and techniques – to make the method even more precise and […]

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Redating Repton

A team from the University of Bristol, led by Cat Jarman and Mark Horton, is reanalysing the Viking site at Repton in Derbyshire and challenging previously held theories about it. Repton was first excavated between 1974 and 1993 by Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle in order to investigate the Anglo-Saxon origins of St Wystan’s Church; […]

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Current Archaeology 336

One hundred years ago this month, the Representation of the People Act 1918 made political history, giving British women the vote for the first time. Electoral rights were only extended to a select portion of the female population (I wouldn’t have qualified) but it was a watershed moment. This might seem more like social history […]

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Science Notes – Laboratory spotlight: Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU)

For this month’s ‘Science Notes’, we went to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU ) to explore the enigmatic process behind radiocarbon (14C) dating, sitting down with Professor Tom Higham, the deputy director of ORAU, and Dr David Chivall, the lab’s chemistry manager, to discuss ORAU’s history, laboratory practices, and current research, as well as future prospects.