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Characterization of Contexts for Radiocarbon Dating: Results from the Early Iron Age at Tell Es-Safi/Gath, Israel

  • Michael Toffolo (a1) (a2), Aren M Maeir (a3), Jeffrey R Chadwick (a4) and Elisabetta Boaretto (a1)


The reliability of a radiocarbon date depends in part on the degree of precision and accuracy of the measurement. While analytical precision and accuracy can be improved by careful sample cleaning procedures and high laboratory standards, accuracy also depends upon the certainty to which the sample can be attributed to a specific material culture or event in the past. This might be questionable when based only on partial archaeological information. As a consequence, it is very difficult to date clear-cut chronological transitions within specific periods. This issue is particularly apparent in the case of Mediterranean Iron Age chronology, where 2 somewhat different perspectives are proposed, the “High Chronology” and the “Low Chronology,” which differ by ∼50 yr. Here, we present the preliminary results of an ongoing project that aims to characterize Iron Age archaeological contexts from the eastern Mediterranean, and to identify those contexts that are suitable for dating, in order to improve the accuracy of 14C dates. This study involves the analysis of sediments by means of FTIR spectrometry, soil micromorphology, phytolith and phosphate extraction, all of which provide insights into the site-formation and postdepositional processes at the different sites under investigation. These techniques, applied at Tell es-Safi/Gath (Israel), enabled us to better identify a secure context for dating.

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