What is this project’s purpose ?

The exact dating of excavated strata is one of the major concerns of archaeologists. A 3rd millennium BC layer, for example, differs considerably from a 1st millennium one, and differences of less than a century can tell us a great deal about historical processes and patterns of human interaction. Artifacts, and particularly ceramics, may give us reliable chronological estimations, but such comparative chronological methods are not as precise as modern methods of physical (“absolute”) dating.

The main dating method currently used by archaeologists is based on the radioactive decay of isotope 14 of the carbon atom. Carbon dating is fast, easy to use and relatively inexpensive, and it can reliably date samples of bone or charcoal to within time spans of less than a hundred years.

In order to obtain a relatively precise absolute chronology for a moderate-sized stratigraphic sequence, an excavation needs at least 5 to 10 datings. Larger and more complex excavations might need up to 30 dates. Currently, the cost of processing a standard C14 date is from 150 to 200 euros, while bone dates cost about twice as much. So in total, the C14 dating budget for a single season’s excavation would be from 750 to 2000 euros.

The EX ORIENTE LUX C14 Dating Program will help to run part or all of the C14 testing for specific excavations, determined according to their scientific relevance.

Who will do it ?

With the agreement of the heads of the chosen excavations and after the careful choice of the samples to be dated, I will be in charge of shipping the selected samples to the European dating laboratories of Lyon (France) or Lecce (CEDAD, Italy).

The archaeologists who receive the support of EX ORIENTE LUX will commit themselves to mention the help of the association in their publications.

The C14 dates will be reported on the EX ORIENTE LUX website (in the section concerning the results).

When will it be done ?

This is not a one-time project but rather a program of support aimed at funding the dating of excavated strata from a series of different excavations throughout southern Iran. It is intended to be a permanent focus for EX ORIENTE LUX.

How the money will be exactly used ?

The money will be used to ship samples to the Lecce or Lyon laboratories, as well as of course to pay the laboratories to run the C14 dates.