Palaeolithic radiocarbon chronology: Quantifying our confidence beyond two half-lives

P. B. Pettitt, W. Davies, C. S. Gamble, M. B. Richards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

149 Citations (Scopus)


It is now three decades since Waterbolk introduced evaluation criteria to 14C chronology. Despite this, and other subsequent attempts to introduce quality control in the use of 14C data, no systematic procedure has been adopted by the archaeological community. As a result, our databases may be significantly weakened by questionable dates and/or questionable associations between dated samples and the archaeological phenomena they are intended to represent. As the use of chronometric data in general becomes more ambitious, we must pause and assess how reliable these data are. Here, we forward a set of evaluation criteria which take into account archaeological (e.g. associational, stratigraphic) and chronometric (e.g. pre-treatment and measurement) criteria. We intend to use such criteria to evaluate a large 14C dataset we have assembled to investigate Late Glacial settlement in Europe, the Near East and North Africa, supported by the Leverhulme Trust. We suggest that the procedure presented here may at least form the basis of the development of more rigorous, scientific use of 14C dates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1685-1693
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Issue number12
Early online date23 Jul 2003
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2003


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