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Radiocarbon Ecology of the Land Snail Helix Melanostoma in Northeastern Libya

  • E A Hill (a1), P J Reimer (a1), C O Hunt (a2), A L Prendergast (a3) and G W Barker (a4)...

Terrestrial gastropods are problematical for radiocarbon (14C) measurement because they tend to incorporate carbon from ancient sources as a result of their dietary behavior. The 14C ecology of the pulmonate land snail, Helix melanostoma in Cyrenaica, northeastern Libya, was investigated as part of a wider study on the potential of using terrestrial mollusk shell for 14C dating of archaeological deposits. H. melanostoma was selected out of the species available in the region as it has the most predictable 14C ecology and also had a ubiquitous presence within the local archaeology. The ecological observations indicate that H. melanostoma has a very homogenous 14C ecology with consistent variations in F14C across sample sites controlled by availability of dietary vegetation. The majority of dated specimens from non-urbanized sample locations have only a small old-carbon effect, weighted mean of 476±48 14C yr, with between ~1% and 9% of dietary F14C from non-organic carbonate sources. Observed instabilities in the 14C ecology can all be attributed to the results of intense human activity not present before the Roman Period. Therefore, H. melanostoma and species with similar ecological behavior are suitable for 14C dating of archaeological and geological deposits with the use of a suitable offset.

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Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016

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