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A Reassessment of the Routine Pretreatment Protocol for Radiocarbon Dating Cremated Bones

  • Christophe Snoeck (a1) (a2), Richard A Staff (a1) and Fiona Brock (a1) (a3)

In the late 1990s, it was demonstrated that reliable radiocarbon dates could be obtained directly from cremated bone. Many 14C laboratories have since used a protocol for pretreating cremated (calcined) bones that consists of consecutive treatments with bleach and acetic acid to remove organic matter and extraneous or diagenetic carbonate, respectively. In most instances, the bleach used is sodium hypochlorite, although in recent years the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit (ORAU) has used acidified sodium chlorite instead. However, properly calcined (white) bones should not contain any organic material; hence, the bleach treatment is potentially unnecessary. This article describes studies investigating the effectiveness of bleach (and the specific bleach used) during pretreatment of calcined bone, and demonstrates that 14C dates on six cremated bone samples are statistically indistinguishable whether or not the initial bleach step is applied.

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  • ISSN: 0033-8222
  • EISSN: 1945-5755
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