Radiocarbon dating, mineralogy, and isotopic composition of hackberry endocarps from the Neolithic site of Aşikli Höyük, central Turkey

Jay Quade, Shanying Li, Mary C. Stiner, Amy E. Clark, Susan M. Mentzer, Mihriban Özbaşaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Carbonate is abundant in many Neolithic tells and is a potentially useful archive for dating and climate reconstruction. In this paper, we focus on the mineralogy, radiocarbon dating, and stable isotope systematics of carbonate in hackberry endocarps. Hackberry fruits and seeds are edible in fresh and stored forms, and they were consumed in large quantities in many Neolithic sites in the Near East, including the site of our study, Aşıklı Höyük in central Anatolia, an Aceramic Neolithic tell occupied from about 9.4 to >10.3 BP (7.4 to >8.3 BCE). Detailed 14C age control provided by archaeological charcoal permits a test of the fidelity in 14C dating of hackberry endocarps. Modern endocarps and leaves yield fraction modern 14C values of 1.050-1.066, consistent with levels present in the atmosphere when sampled in 2009. On the other hand, archaeological endocarps yield consistently younger ages than associated charcoal by ca. 130 14C years (ca. 220 calendar years) for samples about 10,000 years old. We speculate this is caused by the slight addition of calcite or recrystallization to calcite in the endocarp, as detected by scanning electron microscopy. Subtle addition or replacement of calcite by primary aragonite is not widely recognized in the 14C community, even though similar effects are reported from other natural carbonates such as shell carbonate. This small (but consistent) level of contamination supports the usefulness of endocarps in dating where other materials like charcoal are lacking. Before dating, however, hackberries should be carefully screened for mineralogical preservation and context. We examined the carbon and oxygen isotopic systematics of the fossil endocarps to try to establish potential source areas for harvesting. Most of the hackberries are enriched in 18O compared to local water sources, indicating that they were drawing on highly evaporated soil water, rather than the local (perched and regional) water table sampled in our study. Isotopic evidence therefore suggests that most but not all of the hackberries were harvested from nearby mesas well above the local streams and seeps fed by the water table.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S17-S25
JournalRadiocarbon
Volume56
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

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Keywords

  • Geoarchaeology
  • Microcontextual approach
  • Micromorphology
  • Radiocarbon
  • Stable isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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