How radiocarbon dating works

Most of the mounds we investigated returned medieval dates.

The majority of these cluster around the 11th century AD – and almost certainly reflect the great wave of castle building that swept across England in the decades after the Conquest of 1066.

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The biggest surprise we encountered was Skipsea Castle mound, which seems to be much earlier than the rest of the sites we looked at!

This site was dated using multiple samples from the buried ground surface and the makeup of the mound.

If you want more information about how radiocarbon dating works: The internet being what it is, there is plenty of nonsense online about radiocarbon dating, thankfully there are at least a few sensible sources which explain how the technique works – see here and here, for example.

Wherever possible, we aimed to collect datable material (preserved plant remains, seeds, charcoal, bone etc.) from both the buried ground surface underneath each mound as well as from the actual makeup of the mound itself: Obtaining dates on the old ground surface can help to provide us with what archaeologists call a (“limit after which”) – a maximum age for the point in time that the old ground surface became buried underneath the mound.

There are, however, a couple of interesting “outliers” – and these are exactly what our project has set out to look for!

The dates of Skipsea Castle, “The Mount” at Lewes, and “Castle 3” at Hamstead Marshall, will all be discussed in more detail in seperate posts…Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.Radiocarbon dating is used to determine the age of previously living organisms.Radiocarbon dating can be done at a variety of research institutions including Woods Whole and UC Irvine.and is now the principal source of information about the absolute age of rocks and other geological features, including the age of fossilized life forms or the age of the Earth itself, and can also be used to date a wide range of natural and man-made materials.

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