Fluvial sediments, correlations and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction: The development of robust radiocarbon chronologies

Andrew Howard, Benjamin Gearey, T Hill, W Fletcher, P Marshall

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    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Multiple sequences of radiocarbon dates extracted from organic materials are increasingly being used to provide robust chronologies for landscape development, particularly the timing and correlation of significant climatic and 'process' events. Whilst the validity of using such frameworks in sedimentary environments such as lake basins and raised bogs has been the focus of much attention, such debates have not extended to fluvial systems. Using examples from three lowland, vertically accreting river valleys in East Anglia, UK, this paper assesses the robustness of their associated radiocarbon chronologies by assessing the contrasting age estimates that are obtained by dating different parts of the same organic sample (humic, humin and plant macrofossils) at a variety of stratigraphic levels. Overall, the humin and humic acid fraction results were statistically consistent, whilst the plant macrofossil remains were found to be of a slightly younger age. In these examples, it is argued that the younger ages appear to be the result of Phragmites (common reed) roots pushing plant macrossils through the sedimentary sequence or opening up voids for material to fall through, although studies in lacustrine and mire environments suggest alternative explanations may also be possible. Whichever explanation is preferred, this study demonstrates clearly that the complexity of valley floor stratigraphy and processes is such, that using single radiocarbon dates, whether AMS or bulk samples to reconstruct chronologies of 'geomorphic system response' may need to be refined and subjected to the same level of assessment that has been applied in other sedimentary systems. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2680-2688
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009


    • Fluvial
    • Radiocarbon
    • Holocene
    • Geoarchaeology


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