AMS dating of ancient plant residues from experimental stone tools: a pilot study

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Yates, A, Smith, AM, Parr, JF, Scheffers, A & Jonannes-Boyau, R 2014, 'AMS dating of ancient plant residues from experimental stone tools: a pilot study', Journal of Archaeological Science, vol, 49, pp. 595-602.

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Residue analyses on stone artefacts have contributed to resolving functional questions in stone tool research. Although identifying the function of tools through the analysis of their micro-residues is possible, the establishment of a sound numerical chronology for stone tools lacking a clear stratigraphic sequence, such as surface scatters, remains a challenge. While radiocarbon dating of blood residue on stone artefacts has been published previously (Loy 1987, 1990, 1993; Loy et al., 1990; Nelson et al.1986), this paper reports on an experiment designed to assess the possibility of directly dating residues on stone artefacts by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) based radiocarbon measurements. Innovative with this approach is (1) the use of mid and late Holocene pre-dated plant material (wood and peat), processed with contemporarily manufactured stone flakes under controlled laboratory conditions and (2) the use of very small carbon masses (less than 22 μg) for radiocarbon dating. The 14C results of the wood residues are in excellent agreement with the original sample, whereas the 14C results of the peat residues yield a wider age variation as expected due to the inhomogeneity of the material, but nevertheless, provided dates within an expected age range. Preliminary results demonstrate the feasibility of dating very small amounts of plant residue on lithics directly when contaminants are confined.

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