Collaborative Research: Testing and Refining Ceramic Rehydroxylation Dating

Project: Research project

Description

This proposal seeks funding for the validation and improvement of Ceramic Rehydroxylation Dating (RHX dating), a new chronometric tool for the dating of archaeological ceramic materials. Being able to date ceramics from archaeological excavations and surveys is critical in our ability to ask key questions on the level of individual sites about past communities of practice and technological transfer, skill and identity, social and economic organization of production and the perception of past landscapes. On a regional level, it allows us to reconstruct more detailed and nuanced landscape histories and re-examine settlement patterns as well as regional social, economic and ideological relations between sites. Currently, however, our ability to date ceramics is limited: thermoluminescence and archaeomagnetic dating, although able to date ceramics directly and accurately, require advanced analytical tools and trained personnel, making them expensive and inaccessible to many archaeometric laboratories and most archaeologists. Radiocarbon dating of organic residues attached to ceramics can only be used in the rare occasions where indeed carbonized organics are still found attached on ceramics, leaving the majority of recovered ceramics undatable. Stratigraphic association and seriation of stylistic elements or vessel shapes are easily accessible and commonly used, yet they are relative dating techniques and unable to directly date ceramics even when combined with radiocarbon dating of organic materials found in association with ceramics. RHX dating was proposed recently by Wilson et al. (2009), of the universities of Manchester, as a new, low-cost and simple technique to date archaeological ceramics directly. Bowen et al. (2011) of Michigan Technological University (MTU), Lippo et al. (2011) of California State University at Long Beach (CSU-LB), and Moinester et al. (2011) of Tel Aviv University (TAU) have successfully replicated some of the RHX experiments described by the Manchester team. Yet, they have also proposed that RHX dating may be more complex than initially described. They have also attempted to understand the mechanics that govern the interactions of water with crystalline minerals in ceramics. Recently Arizona State University (ASU) has also become interested in exploring the feasibility and potential of RHX dating. Funding of this proposal will allow the research teams at MTU (leading institution), CSULB, TAU and ASU to collaborate with each other, while keeping in close contact with the Manchester team, by blindly analyzing the same 30 carefully selected archaeological ceramics in order to: 1) examine the effects of sample mineralogy/chemistry and original firing temperatures 2) examine the effect of time since sample production 3) examine the effect of post-depositional/sample storage conditions (temperature, humidity) 4) refine the model that describes the rehydration/rehydroxylation process, and 5) cross-validate the results of the above examinations among all five teams to establish best practices and protocols.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date8/1/127/31/15

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $48,773.00

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ceramics
radiocarbon dating
dating
refining
landscape history
rehydration
thermoluminescence
settlement pattern
economics
mechanics
humidity
excavation
mineralogy
vessel
beach
temperature