A freshwater diet-derived 14C reservoir effect at the Stone Age sites in the Iron Gates gorge

Gordon Cook, Clive Bonsall, Robert Hedges, Kathleen McSweeney, Vasile Boroneanț, Paul Pettitt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Human bones from single inhumation burials and artifacts made from terrestrial mammal (ungulate) bone found in direct association with the skeletons were obtained from the Stone Age site of Schela Cladovei situated just below the Iron Gates Gorge of the River Danube. The results of stable isotope analyses of the human bone collagen are consistent with a heavy dependence on aquatic protein while radiocarbon dating of the samples reveals an offset of 300-500 years between the two sample types, indicating a freshwater reservoir effect in the human bone samples. Since protein consumption is by far the major source of nitrogen in the human diet we have assumed a linear relationship between delta (super 15) N and the level of aquatic protein in each individual's diet and derived a calibration for (super 14) C age offset versus delta (super 15) N which has been applied to a series of results from the site at Lepenski Vir within the gorge. The corrected (super 14) C ages (7310-6720 BP) are now consistent with the previous (super 14) C age measurements made on charcoal from related contexts (7360-6560 BP). In addition, the data indicate a change from a primarily aquatic to a mixed terrestrial/aquatic diet around 7100 BP and this may be argued as supporting a shift from Mesolithic to Neolithic. This study also has wider implications for the accurate dating of human bone samples when the possibility exists of an aquatic component in the dietary protein and strongly implies that delta (super 15) N analysis should be undertaken routinely when dating human bones.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)453-460
Number of pages8
JournalRadiocarbon: An International Journal of Cosmogenic Isotope Research
Issue number2A
Publication statusPublished - 2001


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