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Evaluation of Preparation Methods in Radiocarbon Dating of Old Wood

  • Irka Hajdas (a1), Laura Hendriks (a1), Alessandro Fontana (a2) and Giovanni Monegato (a3)

From the early days of radiocarbon dating, the standard sample treatment has involved removal of contamination from carbonates and humic acids by washes in acid and base, respectively. A modification of this acid-base-acid (ABA) method has been suggested, especially for material older than 20,000 yr. However, the criticism of ABA and application of a more aggressive oxidizing method, such as wet oxidation (ABOX) or cellulose extraction, might only be needed in some special cases, for example, in the case of poorly preserved or chemically treated wood. Separation of cellulose seems to be the ultimate solution; however, it is not always applicable when samples contain small amounts of wood. As a part of studies focusing on the chronology of late Pleistocene sedimentary processes in the Venetian–Friulian Plain and Carnic Alps (NE Italy), 14C analyses were performed on old wood samples found in sedimentary deposits of pre-Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) age. Wood samples were treated by five methods: ABA, two modified ABA treatments (ABOX and ABA+Bleach), as well as two different cellulose separations. Infrared spectra of treated samples and 14C results show that in most cases the ABA method is sufficient in removing the contamination of naturally deposited wood, even when the wood is of very old age.

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Selected Papers from the 2015 Radiocarbon Conference, Dakar, Senegal, 16–20 November 2015

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