New developments in the “nondestructive” dating of perishable artifacts using plasma-chemical oxidation

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Book Chapter

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Fragile or perishable artifacts, including basketry, textiles, and netting, are rare in the archaeological record. Dating such objects must be undertaken with great care, as the process of radiocarbon analysis requires destructive sampling, cleaning, and combustion steps. We report here progresson a minimally destructive, yet effective, sample pretreatment procedure for removing contaminants, followed by the application of plasma-chemical oxidation to prepare materials for accelerator mass spectrometric radiocarbon analysis. We have applied the new phosphate treatment to fragments from artifacts made from grasses and tree bark, excavated from a site in Idaho, and subjected the whole artifacts to plasma oxidation for comparison. Our results show that microsampling and pretreatment gives more reliable results with less damage to the artifacts.

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