Dating materials in good archaeological contexts: The next challenge for radiocarbon analysis

Elisabetta Boaretto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Radiocarbon dating has had an enormous impact on archaeology. Most of the dates are obtained using charred materials and, to a lesser extent, collagen from bones. The contexts in which charred materials and bones are found are often, however, not secure. There are 3 other datable materials that are usually in secure contexts: plaster/mortar, phytoliths, and the organic material in the ceramic of whole vessels. The plaster/mortar of walls and floors are often in very secure contexts. Phytoliths are abundant in archaeological sites and in some situations form well-defined surfaces. Whole vessels are usually found in secure contexts and their typologies are indicative of a specific period. Dating each of these materials has proved to be difficult, and solving these technical problems represents major future challenges for the 14C community. The effective use of charcoal and bone collagen for dating can also be improved by paying careful attention to the micro-contexts in which they are found, such as in clusters or as part of well-defined features. Pre-screening to identify the best preserved material can also contribute to improving the accuracy of the dates obtained. A general objective should be to have an assessment of the quality of the material to be dated so that the potentially invaluable information from outliers can be exploited.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)275-281
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2009


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