Accurate radiocarbon dating of archaeological ash using pyrogenic aragonite

Michael B. Toffolo, Lior Regev, Eugenia Mintz, Kristin M. Poduska, Ruth Shahack-Gross, Christoph Berthold, Christopher E. Miller, Elisabetta Boaretto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Obtaining accurate age determinations from minerals in archaeological ash is a major unsolved issue in radiocarbon (14C) dating. This is because the original14C content of calcite, the main component of ash, is altered by isotopic exchange. Pyrogenic aragonite, another mineral phase recently discovered in ash, might preserve its14C signature through time. Using a new method based on density separation and step combustion, we were able to isolate and date aragonitic ash from an archaeological destruction horizon of known age. Here we show that the14C age of aragonite matches the age of the destruction horizon. Our results demonstrate that pyrogenic aragonite is a short-lived material suitable for14C dating and directly related to human activities involving the use of fire, thus bearing major implications for the establishment of absolute chronologies for the past 50,000 yr.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-249
Number of pages19
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.


  • Aragonite
  • Ash
  • Calcite
  • Density separation
  • Diagenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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