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Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Bronze Age red deer antlers found at Borth

These splendid antlers attached to a skull found on the beach at Borth (from a mature male red deer) were thought, a few months ago, to be at least 4,000 years old.  But they have now been radiocarbon dated, and martin Bates and colleagues at Lampeter are surprised to find that the animal died only about 3,000 years ago.

That's surprisingly recent.  It doesn't necessarily mean that the inundation timescale for Cardigan Bay is wrong, since the skull and antlers were found in a channel (a river exit or maybe a tidal stream channel?) cut into older deposits including peat beds and the submerged forest.  So within the channel and on the channel flanks there may be organic remains that differ in age by several thousand years.

It will be interesting to read more about this find when it is fully written up.


TonyH said...

Amazing that the Bronze Age antlers are, it seems, so completely preserved, relatively undamaged. Reminds me of Mesolithic or later finds from East Yorkshire by the former lake, close to old Doggerland.

sciencebod said...

I was doing some research the other day on the radiocarbon dating of animal and human bone, and was surprised (initially) to find that what was dated was not calcium carbonate, i.e. the principal mineral carbon-containing constituent of bone, albeit not the major component (calcium phosphate) but the extracted collagen component (i.e. surviving organic matrix protein).

Then antler picks came up as the dated material of interest in a different locale, notably the ditch at the periphery of Silbury Hill, but it proved surprisingly difficult to get hard detailed information on the composition of deer antlers, leaving one to wonder whether it was "reliable" (collagen?) that was being dated or less reliable (?) calcium carbonate.

Why less reliable? There's always the possibility one presumes of carbonate/bicarbonate/CO2 exchange. If mineral geological carbonate replaces bone carbonate it's embarrassingly C-14 free and thus throws the dating, making things seem older than they really are.

As for the radiocarbon dating of Anatolia's Gobekli Tepe, allegedly the world's first temple, 9000-10,000BC (!) but constructed we're told by hunter-gatherers, artistic carvings an'all, with no permanent dwellings of their own, least of all stone-built, words fail me. The dating is based on nothing more we're told than fragments of charcoal and mineral (carbonate) deposits (read: grot) that forms on stonework with age after its installation. Hmmm.

It may be totally reliable, maybe not, but there's a suspicion in this mind that radiocarbon dating may be getting ahead of itself, these wonderfully preserved antlers included...

Best to keep an open mind, and ask for independent evidence, based on more than radiocarbon dating...

Colin Berry

TonyH said...

I was referring to Star Carr, which I see is classified as NORTH Yorkshire as far as cyberspace is concerned, so I stand corrected. You may source seemingly learned articles therein on Star Carr's antler head - dressers. If that is your thing, perhaps for a midsummer's day Mesolithic bash?

TonyH said...

There's quarries at Gobekli Tepe.

The Rhosyfelin "quarry", meanwhile, continues to cause quarrels twixt Geomorphologists/Glaciologists and persons of a logical tendency; and imaginative Archaeologists of the MPP/UCL persuasion.