Compound-specific radiocarbon, stable carbon isotope and biomarker analysis of mixed marine/terrestrial lipids preserved in archaeological pottery vessels.

Emmanuelle J A Casanova, Timothy J Knowles, Candice Ford*, Lucy J E Cramp, Niall Sharples, Richard P Evershed

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Abstract

At archaeological sites located on islands or near the coast, the potential exists for lipid extracts of potsherds to contain fatty acids (FA) from both aquatic and terrestrial organisms,meaning that consideration must be given to marine reservoir effects (MRE) in radiocarbon analyses. Here we studied the site of Bornais (Outer Hebrides, UK) where a local MRE, ΔR of -65 ± 45 y was determined through the paired 14C determinations of terrestrial and marine faunal bones. Lipid analysis of 49 potsherds, revealed aquatic biomarkers in 45% of the vessels, and δ13C values of C16:0 and C18:0 FAs revealed ruminant and marine product mixing for 71% of vessels. Compound-specific radiocarbon analysis (CSRA) of FAs yieldedintermediate radiocarbon ages between those of terrestrial and marine bones from the same contexts, confirming an MRE existed. A database containing δ13C values for FAs from reference terrestrial and marine organisms provided endmembers for calculating thepercentage marine-derived C (%marine) in FAs. We show that lipid 14C dates can be corrected using determined %marine and ΔR values, such that pottery vessels from coastal locations can be radiocarbon dated by CSRA of FAs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRadiocarbon
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2020

Keywords

  • Pottery vessels
  • Lipid residues
  • Compound-specific radiocarbon analysis
  • Marine reservoir effect
  • Mixed marine/terrestrial corrections

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