The need for a new approach to the radiocarbon dating of historic mortars

Gianluca Pesce*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This commentary aims at raising awareness and fostering a discussion on the need of a new approach to the radiocarbon (14C) dating of historic mortars. Over the last decades, important advancements have been made in the application of the 14C dating methods to lime mortar samples, including the use of lime lumps instead of generic pieces of mortar. However, a relevant number of results in disagreement with the chronological framework of the related archaeological cases are published every year without a clear understanding of the reasons for such results. This suggests that further developments to the methodology are needed. The commentary argues that to further develop this particular application of the 14C dating method, a new, more holistic approach is needed that moves away from the very “applied” approach that dominated the last decades and focuses more on the causes of contamination and the mechanism of the reactions involved. Two actions are suggested that can immediately improve our ability to critically assess the results obtained: the publication of a chemical and mineralogical characterization of the binding fraction for the dated mortars, and the publication of sampling depth for each dated sample.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1021
Number of pages5
Issue number5
Early online date3 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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