SAS Bulletin

Volume 20   Number 1/2   January /June 1997

Archaeological Dating

W. Jack Rink, Associate Editor

    It is a great pleasure to join in the activities of the SAS Bulletin. I hope to contribute in a variety of ways, with a view to keep you informed on developments in dating technology, to comment on interesting and controversial findings, and to suggest where to find great reading. This issue, Iķll introduce myself and then whet your appetite for the dating game with some recent developments in the field. My work is focused on the use of electron spin resonance (ESR), luminescence and uraniumseries dating, and aspects of the development of the former two methods. I began my Ph.D. work in geology in 1985 at Florida State University on ESR in quartz as old as one billion years. I rapidly moved up the geological timescale when I realized I could contribute to problems in Palaeolithic archaeology within Quaternary time, which encompasses the last two million years of earth history. Since beginning my work on ģthings archaeologicalī while on a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge (UK) in the Godwin Lab, Subdepartment of Quaternary Research, I moved to Canada in 1992 to continue this work at McMaster University Department of Geology.
    Being the skeptic that I am, my work with ESR dating of tooth enamel has involved a great deal of dating intercomparison and fundamental study, and this has taken me into the field to a large number of sites in contexts ranging from desert environments to open river valleys and karstic caves in humid climates. This range of field experiences has been broadened since I built a luminescence dating laboratory, where I work on burned flint with thermoluminescence and windblown and waterlain sediments using optically stimulated luminescence dating techniques. With these approaches, I am currently dating the stone tool assemblages at Rosh Ein Mor and Boker Tachtit in the dry wadis of the Negev desert of Israel through a grant from the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation. Beyond the archaeological realm, I use these dating techniques in problems of dating faults and for studying questions of ancient sea level and regional tectonic motion. I also use mass spectroscopy for high precision Useries dating of archaeological calcite, teeth and ostrich egg shell.
    Beyond dating, I recently began a collaboration with Dr. Kevin Smith of the Buffalo Museum of Science on using ESR to determine the geological age of jaspers used in stone tools in the Arctic. In particular, we are working on the provenance of a jasper microblade core which unexpectedly turned up in an Icelandic site dated to circa AD 870. The identity of the source material for this object is critical to long established ideas about the Norse as the earliest inhabitants of Iceland. Our preliminary results, supported by neutron activation analysis, suggest that the source is a local Icelandic jasper of young geological age, raising the possibility of an earlier Arctic Palaeoindian presence in Iceland. This work has been exciting and quite different from the dating research.
    Recent important publications for the ESR and Luminescence dating community and the end users of these technologies are the latest issues of Radiation Measurements (v. 27, 1997) and Quaternary Science Reviews (Quaternary Geochronology v. 16, 1997). These are the conference proceedings of the 8th International Conference on ESR and Luminescence Dating, held in Canberra, Australia from 2226 April, 1996. In these volumes readers will find the most recent technical discussions on the dating methodologies, and some exciting new dating results, as well as important developments in instrumentation. In addition, a special edition of Radiation Measurements was organized by Ann Wintle (Institute of Earth Studies, Aberystwyth, Wales) and Steve McKeever (Department of Physics, Oklahoma State University, USA). Publication is schedulated for late 1997 and it will contain a series of invited review articles of specific applications in these fields of dating research. My own contribution is entitled Electron Spin Resonance Dating in Quaternary Science and Archaeometry, and there will also be a review article from Dr. Bert Roberts of La Trobe University on Luminescence Dating in Archaeology.

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