New findings on carbon-14 dating provide a better picture of how old fish-eaters really are.

A map of North-Eastern Europe indicates the sites named in the text. Inset: Koyka River valley in Sakhtysh with prehistoric site locations (sample burial sites highlighted). Credit: Advances in science (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk2904

How old are these bones? This standard question in archeology can in many cases be answered with the help of carbon isotopes. 14C. But there are exceptions. Some living habits, such as prehistoric hunter-gatherer-fisherman communities, may have deteriorated. 14C-dating, because carbon is generally low in aquatic ecosystems. 14C versus carbon from land plants and animals.

An international team led by researchers from the Leibniz-Zentrum für Archäologie (LEIZA), the Roots Cluster of Excellence and the University of Kiel (CAU) has now for the first time been able to accurately date Neolithic graves at the important site of Kharkish (Russia). has been , thus indicating new patterns in the cultural development of the period.

“At the same time, the method used here also enables more accurate dating of human remains in other regions with similar environmental conditions,” says Dr John Meadows. He is the lead author of the study, which was conducted. published I Advances in science.

One of the largest known prehistoric burial sites in northeastern Europe

About 180 prehistoric burials were found between 1962 and 1992 at Zakhrysh, about 200 km northeast of Moscow. This makes Sakhtish one of the largest burial sites of this period in northeastern Europe.

However, the exact date of individual burials and thus their chronological order is still uncertain. One of the reasons: Burial people ate a lot of fish in their lives.

“It turns out that this diet lowers the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in bones. As a result, the bones appear much older. These changes are highly variable and so far accurate. It has become difficult to do, explains John Meadows, who conducts research at the Leibniz-Zentrum für Archäologie and Kiel University in Schleswig (LEIZA-ZBSA) and is a member of the ROOTS network.

Carbon-14 dating is off by 900 years.

The team in the current study compared isotope analyzes on two samples from people excavated at Shrekish: one on a tooth and the other on a petrous. . Teeth and petrous bone are the only mineralized parts of the human body that do not regenerate after formation, and they form at different ages.

“If diet changes during childhood and adolescence, the difference in isotope values ​​between an individual’s teeth and petrous bone allows us to draw conclusions about how much 14C-dating of the individual needs to be corrected,” says Meadows.

A mathematical model of these differences indicated a shift of up to 900 years for some burials. The corrections lead to an entirely new dating of the burial site, allowing for new interpretations of the cultural background. For example, one unusual grave turned out to be the youngest, dating back to the early 3rd millennium BC. On the other hand, the earliest burial dates back to the early 5th century BC.

New history provides new insights into prehistoric communities.

“When properly phased, the graves show changes in trade networks, which moved from the east to the Baltic region between 3500 and 3000 BC. Another result of the investigation is that individual burials There are often more than one generation in between, meaning that the burial site was only used intermittently over a long period of time,” explains Anastasia Khurmatsova from the Cluster of Excellence Routes.

“We can only interpret findings correctly if we can put them in the correct sequence. Able to work on environmental effects. 14C-dating is therefore fundamental. If there are no terrestrial organic grave goods such as animal bones, our method may help reduce the associated uncertainty at other sites in the future,” summarizes Meadows.

More information:
John Meadows et al, Effects of dietary 14 C deposits and prehistoric burial history at Sakhtysh, Central European Russia, Advances in science (2024). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk2904

Provided by Leibniz Center for Archaeology

Reference: New Approach to Carbon-14 Dating Validates Age of Prehistoric Burial Site (2024, February 21) https://phys.org/news/2024-02-approach-carbon-dating-21 February 2024 Retrieved from age-prehistoric .html

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