Freshwater Reservoir Effect on Re-Dating of Eurasian Steppe Cultures: First Results for Eneolithic and Early Bronze Age North-East Kazakhstan

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Abstract

Freshwater reservoir effects (FRE) can cause a major problem with radiocarbon dating human skeletal material in the Eurasian steppe. We present the first results of research into the extent of the FRE in the sites of Borly 4 (Eneolithic), and Shauke 1 and 8b (Early Bronze Age), North-Eastern Kazakhstan. AMS 14C dating and stable isotope (δ13C, δ15N) analysis of associated groups of samples (32 samples, 11 groups in total) demonstrate that: a) the diet of the humans and fauna analysed was based on the C3 foodchain with no evidence of a C4 plant (such as millet) contribution; aquatic resources apparently were a continuous dietary feature for the humans; b) the first 14C dates obtained for the Upper and Middle Irtysh River region attribute the Eneolithic period of the area to the 34th-30th c. BC, and the Early Bronze Age – to the 25th-20th c. BC; there is a ca. 450 years hiatus between the two periods; c) the maximum fish-herbivore freshwater reservoir offset observed equals 301±47 14C yrs. As such, 14C dates from aquatic and human samples from the area need to be interpreted with caution as they are likely to be affected by the offset (i.e. appear older).
The paper also discusses the effect of a sodium hydroxide (NaOH) wash on δ13C, δ15N, C:Natomic levels and collagen yields of the bone samples. Our results indicate a minor but significant effect of NaOH treatment only on C:Natomic ratios of the samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-644
Number of pages20
JournalRadiocarbon
Volume57
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • Eurasian Steppe
  • NE Kazakhstan
  • Eneolithic
  • Bronze Age
  • Freshwater Reservoir Effects
  • sodium hydroxide (NaOH)

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