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Bayesian Approach to 14C Dates for Estimation of Long-Term Archaeological Sequences in Arid Environments: The Holocene Site of Takarkori Rockshelter, Southwest Libya

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 February 2016

Alexander Cherkinsky*
Center for Applied Isotope Studies, University of Georgia, 120 Riverbend Road, Athens, Georgia, USA
Savino di Lernia
Dipartimento di Scienze dell'Antichità Sapienza, Università di Roma, Via dei Volsci 122, 00185 Rome, Italy. School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, PB 3, Johannesburg 2050, South Africa
Corresponding author. Email:


Caves and rockshelters are critical loci for the analysis and understanding of human trajectories in the past. Use and re-uses of the same context, however, might have had serious impacts on depositional aspects. This is particularly true for the archaeological history of desert environments, such as the central Sahara, where most of the deposits are made of loose sand, rich in organic matter. Besides traditional stratigraphic reconstructions and a detailed study of the material culture, radiocarbon measurements from different contexts analyzing several types of material (bone, dried and charred coprolite, uncharred and charred plant remains, etc.) can highlight intrinsic critical aspects of 14C determinations. These measurements must be carefully evaluated to provide a correct chronological assessment of the life history of the site. We present the statistics derived from the set of about 50 14C measurements from the site of Takarkori, southwest Libya, where early Holocene foragers and then groups of cattle herders inhabited the area from ∼10,200 to 4600 cal yr BP. We have used the BCal Bayesian 14C calibration program designed for statistical presentation of the calibrated data and the estimation of their probability for different phases. Results indicate that the Takarkori rockshelter was occupied during 4 phases of the following cultures: Late Acacus from 10,170 to 8180 cal yr BP; Early Pastoral, 8180–6890 cal yr BP; Middle Pastoral, 7160–5610 cal yr BP; and Late Pastoral, 5700–4650 cal yr BP.

Copyright © 2013 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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