Skip to main content

Stone Age Pottery Chronology in the Northeast European Forest Zone: New AMS and EA-IRMS Results on Foodcrusts

  • Henny Piezonka (a1), John Meadows (a2), Sönke Hartz (a3), Elena Kostyleva (a4), Nadezhda Nedomolkina (a5), Marina Ivanishcheva (a6), Natalya Kosorukova (a7) and Thomas Terberger (a8)...

Pottery produced by mobile hunter-gatherer-fisher groups in the northeast European forest zone is among the earliest in Europe. Absolute chronologies, however, are still subject to debate due to a general lack of reliable contextual information. Direct radiocarbon dating of carbonized surface residues (“foodcrusts”) on pots can help to address this problem, as it dates the use of the pottery. If a pot was used to cook fish or other aquatic species, however, carbon in the crust may have been depleted in 14C compared to carbon in terrestrial foods and thus appear older than it really is (i.e. showing a “freshwater reservoir effect,” or FRE). A connected problem, therefore, is the importance of aquatic resources in the subsistence economy, and whether pots were used to process aquatic food. To build better chronologies from foodcrust dates, we need to determine which 14C results are more or less likely to be subject to FRE, i.e. to distinguish crusts derived mainly from aquatic ingredients from those composed mainly of terrestrial foods. Integrating laboratory analyses with relative chronologies based on typology and stratigraphy can help to assess the extent of FRE in foodcrust dates. This article reports new 14C and stable isotope measurements on foodcrusts from six Stone Age sites in central and northern European Russia, and one in southeastern Estonia. Most of these 14C results are not obviously influenced by FRE, but the isotopic data suggest an increasing use of aquatic products over the course of the 6th and 5th millennia cal BC.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author. Email:
Hide All
Alliksaar, T, Heinsalu, A. 2012. A radical shift from soft-water to hard-water lake: palaeolimnological evidence from Lake Kooraste Kõverjärv, southern Estonia. Estonian Journal of Earth Sciences 61(4):317327.
Amundson, R, Austin, AT, Schuur, EAG, Yoo, K, Matzek, V, Kendall, C, Uebersax, A, Brenner, D, Baisden, WT. 2003. Global patterns of the isotopic composition of soil and plant nitrogen. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 17(1):1031.
Bērziņš, V, Brinker, U, Klein, C, Lübke, H, Meadows, J, Rudzīte, M, Schmölcke, U, Stümpel, H, Zagorska, I. 2014. New research on Riņņukalns, a Neolithic freshwater shell midden in northern Latvia. Antiquity 88(341):715732.
Bronk Ramsey, C. 2009. Bayesian analysis of radiocarbon dates. Radiocarbon 51(1):337360.
Bruhn, F, Duhr, A, Grootes, PM, Mintrop, A, Nadeau, M-J. 2001. Chemical removal of conservation substances by ‘Soxhlet’-type extraction. Radiocarbon 43(2A):229237.
Craig, OE, Forster, M, Andersen, SH, Koch, E, Crombé, P, Milner, NJ, Stern, B, Bailey, GN, Heron, CP. 2007. Molecular and isotopic demonstration of the processing of aquatic products in northern European prehistoric pottery. Archaeometry 49(1):135152.
Craig, OE, Steele, VJ, Fischer, A, Hartz, S, Andersen, SH, Donohoe, P, Glykou, A, Saula, H, Jones, DM, Koch, E, Heron, CP. 2011. Ancient lipids reveal continuity in culinary practices across the transition to agriculture in Northern Europe. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108(44):17,9105.
DeNiro, MJ, Epstein, S. 1981. Influence of diet on the distribution of nitrogen isotopes in animals. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 45(3):341351.
Evershed, RP. 2008. Organic residue analysis in archaeology: the archaeological biomarker revolution. Archaeometry 50(6):895924.
Fernandes, R, Meadows, J, Dreves, A, Nadeau, M-J, Grootes, P. 2014. A preliminary study on the influence of cooking on the C and N isotopic composition of multiple organic fractions of fish (mackerel and haddock). Journal of Archaeological Science 50:153159.
Filatova, VF. 2006. Voprosy proiskhozhdenija i etnokulturnoi prinadlezhnosti naseleniya epokhi mezolita (Questions of the emergence and ethno-cultural position of the population of the Mesolithic period). In: Kochkurkina SI, Kosmenko MG, editors. Problemy etnokulturnoi istorii naseleniya Karelii (mezolit-srednevekove) (Problems of the ethno-cultural history of the Population of Karelia). Petrozavodsk. p 14–72.
Fischer, A, Olsen, J, Richards, M, Heinemeier, J, Sveinbjörnsdóttir, ÁE, Bennike, P. 2007. Coast–inland mobility and diet in the Danish Mesolithic and Neolithic: evidence from stable isotope values of humans and dogs. Journal of Archaeological Science 34(12):21252150.
Fraser, RA, Bogaard, A, Charles, M, Styring, AK, Wallace, M, Jones, G, Ditchfield, P, Heaton, THE. 2013. Assessing natural variation and the effects of charring, burial and pretreatment on the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope values of archaeobotanical cereals and pulses. Journal of Archaeological Science 40(12):47544766.
Hartz, S, Lüth, F, Terberger, T, editors. 2011. Early pottery in the Baltic. Proceedings of the International Workshop ‘Early Pottery in the Baltic,’ Schleswig, 20–21 October 2006. Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission 89.
Hartz, S, Kostyleva, E, Piezonka, H, Terberger, T, Tsydenova, N, Zhilin, MG. 2012. Hunter-gatherer pottery and charred residue dating: new results on early ceramics in the north Eurasian forest zone. Radiocarbon 54(3–4):10331048.
Heron, C, Craig, OE. 2015. Aquatic resources in foodcrusts: identification and implication. Radiocarbon 57(4):707719.
Ivanishchev, AM, Ivanishcheva, MV. 2000. Tudozero-V poselenie pozdnego mezolita – rannego neolita v Yuzhnom Prionezh’e (Tudozero-V, a settlement of the late Mesolithic-early Neolithic in the south Onegy region). Tverskoi Arkheologicheski Sbornik 4(1):284296.
Ivanishcheva, MV, Kulkova, MA, Sapelko, TV. 2015. Natural processes in Holocene in the South Onega Lake region (on the basis of complex studies of multilayer settlement Tudozero V). In: Lozovskii VM, Lozovskaya OV, Vybornov AA, editors. Neolithic Cultures of Eastern Europe: Chronology, Paleoecology and Cultural Traditions. Materials of the international conference dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Viktor Petrovich Tretyakov, May 12–16, 2015, St Petersburg. St Petersburg: Izdatel’stvo OOO “Periferiya.” p 285289.
Jaanits, L. 1968. Die frühneolithische Kultur in Estland. Congressus Secundus Internationalis Fenno-Ugristarum, Helsinki 23.-28.8.1965, Pars 2. Helsinki. p 12–25.
Jordan, P, Zvelebil, M. 2009. Ex oriente lux: the prehistory of hunter-gatherer ceramic dispersals. In: Jordan P, Zvelebil M, editors. Ceramics Before Farming: The Dispersal of Pottery Among Prehistoric Eurasian Hunter-Gatherers. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press. p 3389.
Karmanov, VN, Zaretskaya, NE, Volokitin, AV. 2014. Another way of early pottery distribution in eastern Europe? Case study of the Pezmog 4 site, European far northeast. Radiocarbon 56(2):733741.
Keaveney, EM, Reimer, PJ. 2012. Understanding the variability in freshwater radiocarbon reservoir offsets: a cautionary tale. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(5):13061316.
Kiryanova, AV, Kosorukova, NV. 2013. K voprosu o datirovke torfyanikovoi stoyanki Karavaikha 4 v basseine ozera Vozhe [On the question of the dating of the peatbog site of Karavaikha 4 in Lake Vozhe basin]. In: Geologo-Arkheologicheskie issledovaniya v timano-severouralskom regione. Doklady 16-i nauchnoi konferencii 31 oktyabrya 2013g. Syktyvkar. p 105–11.
Kosorukova, NV. 2007. Perekhod ot mezolita k neolitu v bassejne ozera Vozhe (novye materialy) [The transition from the Mesolithic to the Neolithic in the basin of Lake Vozhe (new materials)]. In: Russkaya kultura novogo stoletiya: problemy izucheniya, sokhraneniya I ispolzovaniya istoriko-kulturnogo naslediya. Sbornik statei. Vologda: Knizhnoe nasledie. p 41–52.
Lee-Thorp, JA, Sealy, JC, van der Merwe, NJ. 1989. Stable carbon isotope ratio differences between bone collagen and bone apatite, and their relationship to diet. Journal of Archaeological Science 16(6):585599.
Liiva, A, Ilves, E, Punning, JM. 1966. Tartu radiocarbon dates I. Radiocarbon 8:434441.
Lorenz, S, Nedomolkina, NG, Piezonka, H. 2012. Geoarchaeology and floodplain development at the outstanding multiperiod dwelling site of Veksa 3 in the Sukhona basin. In: Zhirob AI, Kuznecov VYu, Subetto DA, Tide I, editors. Geomorfologiya i Paleogeografiya Polyarnykh Regionov: Materialy sovmestnoi mezhdunarodnoi konferencii “Geomorphologiya i Paleogeografiya Polyarnykh Regionov”, simposiuma “Leopoldina” i soveshchaniya rabochei gruppy INQUA Peribaltic. Sankt-Peterburg, SPbGU, 9-17 sentyabrya 2012 goda. St Petersburg. p 467–68.
Mazurkevich, AN, Dolbunova, EV. 2012. The most ancient pottery and Neolithisation of Eastern Europe. Fontes Archaeologici Posnanienses 48:143159.
Meadows, J, Bērziņš, V, Lübke, H, Schmölcke, U, Zagorska, I, Zariņa, G. 2016. Dietary freshwater reservoir effects and the radiocarbon ages of prehistoric human bones from Zvejnieki, Latvia. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.10.024.
Nedomolkina, NG. 2004. Neoliticheskie kompleksy poselenii Veksa, Veksa III basseina Verkhnei Sukhony i ikh khronologiya [Neolithic complexes of the settlements Veksa, Veksa III of the Upper Sukhona basin and their chronology]. In: Problemy khronologiya i etnokulturnykh vsaimodeistvii v neolite Evrazii [Problems of chronology and ethno-cultural interrelations in the Neolithic of Eurasia]. Volume 2. St Petersburg. p 265–79.
Oshibkina, SV. 2006. To the question of the Neolithic revolution and the Neolithization of the forest zone of Eurasia. In: Koryakova LN, Pavlov PY, Shirokov VN, Shorin AA, editors. II Northern Archaeological Congress. Papers. September 24–30, 2006, Khanty-Mansiisk. Ekaterinburg: Charoid. p 262279.
Philippsen, B. 2013a. The freshwater reservoir effect in radiocarbon dating. Heritage Science 1:24.
Philippsen, B. 2013b. Der Süßwasser-Reservoireffekt in der 14C-Datierung: neue Analysen und mesolithische Kochexperimente. Experimentelle Archäologie in Europa – Bilanz. p 2032.
Philippsen, B, Meadows, J. 2014. Inland Ertebølle Culture: the importance of aquatic resources and the freshwater reservoir effect in radiocarbon dates from pottery foodcrusts. In: Fernandes R, Meadows J, editors. Human Exploitation of Aquatic Landscapes’ special issue. Internet Archaeology 37.
Philippsen, B, Kjeldsen, H, Hartz, S, Paulsen, H, Clausen, I, Heinemeier, J. 2010. The hardwater effect in AMS 14C dating of foodcrusts on pottery. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research B 268(7–8):995998.
Piezonka, H. 2008. Neue AMS-Daten zur frühneolithischen Keramikentwicklung in der nordosteuropäischen Waldzone. Estonian Journal of Archaeology 12(2):67113.
Piezonka, H. 2015. Jäger, Fischer, Töpfer. Wildbeutergruppen mit früher Keramik in Nordosteuropa im 6. und 5. Jahrtausend v. Chr. Archäologie in Eurasien 30. Bonn: Habelt-Verlag.
Piezonka, H, Kostyleva, E, Zhilin, MG, Dobrovolskaya, M, Terberger, T. 2013. Flesh or fish? First results of archaeometric research of prehistoric burials from Sakhtysh IIa, Upper Volga region, Russia. Documenta Praehistorica XL:5773.
Piličiauskas, G, Heron, C. 2015. Aquatic radiocarbon reservoir offsets in the southeastern Baltic. Radiocarbon 57(4):539556.
Povlsen, K. 2013. The introduction of ceramics in the Ertebølle Culture. Danish Journal of Archaeology 2(2):146163.
Reimer, PJ, Bard, E, Bayliss, A, Beck, JW, Blackwell, PG, Bronk Ramsey, C, Grootes, PM, Guilderson, TP, Haflidason, H, Hajdas, I, Hatté, C, Heaton, TJ, Hoffmann, DL, Hogg, AG, Hughen, KA, Kaiser, KF, Kromer, B, Manning, SW, Niu, M, Reimer, RW, Richards, DA, Scott, EM, Southon, JR, Staff, RA, Turney, CSM, van der Plicht, J. 2013. IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 55(4):18691887.
Scharl, S. 2004. Die Neolithisierung Europas. Ausgewählte Modelle und Hypothesen. Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH.
Schmölcke, U, Meadows, J, Ritchie, K, Bērziņš, V, Lübke, H, Zagorska, I. 2016. Neolithic fish remains from the freshwater shell midden Riņņukalns in northern Latvia. Environmental Archaeology: The Journal of Human Palaeoecology. doi:10.1179/1749631415Y.0000000011.
Sommer, RS, Benecke, N, Lõugas, L, Nelle, O, Schmölcke, U. 2011. Holocene survival of the wild horse in Europe: a matter of open landscape? Journal of Quaternary Science 26(8):805812.
Timofeev, VI, Zaiceva, GI, Dolukhanov, PM, Shukurov, AM. 2004. Radiouglerodnaya khronologiya neolita Severnoi Evrazii [Radiocarbon chronology of the Neolithic of Northern Eurasia]. St Petersburg.
Utkin, AV, Kostyleva, EL. 2001. Pogrebeniya na stoyanke Karavaikha [Burials at the site of Karavaikha]. Rossiiskaya arkheologiya 3:5566.
Vybornov, A, Zaitseva, G, Kovaliukh, N, Kulkova, M, Possnert, G, Skripkin, V. 2012. Chronological problems with neolithization of the northern Caspian Sea area and the forest-steppe Povolzhye region. Radiocarbon 54(3–4):795799.
Wood, RE, Higham, TFG, Buzilhova, A, Suvorov, A, Heinemeier, J, Olsen, J. 2013. Freshwater radiocarbon reservoir effects at the burial ground of Minino, northwest Russia. Radiocarbon 55(1):163177.
Yanits, LY. 1976. Raskopki neoliticheskogo poseleniya Kyaepa (Excavation of the Neolithic settlement of Kääpa). Eesti Teaduste Akadeemia Toimetised 25. Ühistkomateadused. p 45–8.
Yoshida, K, Kunikita, D, Miyazaki, Y, Nishida, Y, Miyao, T, Matsuzaki, H. 2013. Dating and stable isotope analysis of charred residues on the Incipient Jomon pottery (Japan). Radiocarbon 55(2–3):13221333.
Zaitseva, G, Skripkin, V, Kovaliukh, N, Possnert, G, Dolukhanov, P, Vybornov, A. 2009. Radiocarbon dating of Neolithic pottery. Radiocarbon 51(2):795801.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0033-8222
  • EISSN: 1945-5755
  • URL: /core/journals/radiocarbon
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 49 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 392 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th March 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.