Banner for LabNotes
From Lab Notes
Contact Information
Forest Products Laboratory
One Gifford Pinchot Drive
Madison, WI 53726-2398
Phone: (608) 231-9200
Fax: (608) 231-9592
Email

 

You are here: FPL Home  / Information Products & Services  / Publications

Requested Product

Title: Radiocarbon dating wooden carvings and skeletal remains from Pitch Lake, Trinidad

Source: Radiocarbon. 59(05): 1447-1461.

Author(s)Brock, Fiona ; Ostapkowicz, Joanna ; Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.; Bull, Ian D.

Publication Year: 2017  View PDF »

Category: Journal Articles
Associated Research Project(s):   FPL-4715-3

Abstract: Since the mid-19th century, rare prehistoric wooden carvings and human skeletal remains have been dredged from Pitch Lake, Trinidad, during commercial asphalt mining. Establishing a chronology for these objects is challenging, due to both a lack of stratigraphic and contextual information and the necessity to completely remove any pitch to ensure accurate radiocarbon (14C) dates. A range of solvent extraction protocols was tested to identify the most suitable one for pretreating the Pitch Lake artifacts, and then applied to ten wooden objects and a human cranium recovered from the lake. Several of these objects yielded earlier dates than expected, raising concerns that pitch had remained after pretreatment and had affected the dates. Pyrolysis-GC/MS and optical microscopy techniques were applied to material from the human cranium, a weaving tool, and a small bowl. These techniques, as well as routinely applied laboratory quality assurance procedures, indicated that there was no residual pitch within the cranium or the weaving tool after pretreatment, giving confidence to the dates. However, the small bowl was observed to still be contaminated with pitch after extensive pretreatment, indicating that the date is too old and can only be considered as a terminus post quem.

Keywords: asphalt; Pitch Lake; radiocarbon; Trinidad; wood

Publication Review Process: Formally Refereed

File size: 835 kb(s)

Date posted: 07/17/2018

This publication is also viewable on Treesearch:  view
RITS Product ID: 90586
Current FPL Scientist associated with this product
Wiedenhoeft, Alex C.
Research Botanist
  

Additional items that might interest you
View the video celebrating FPL's 100 years of public service in 2010, from the producers of the Greatest Good....view

Research Highlights from FPL....view

Termite Eradication: A search for the Holy Grail.... view

Moisture Management in Residential Construction Series videos...view

Wood Floor Systems in Residential Construction Series videos....view
- FPL's Mission and Strategic Plan -

FPL's mission is to identify and conduct innovative wood and fiber utilization research that contributes to conservation and productivity of the forest resource, thereby sustaining forests, the economy, and quality of life. ... ..more »

- FPL Research Emphasis Areas -
Advanced Composites

As an integral part of the FPL mission, we improve the long-term sustainability of our Nation's forests by creating valuable composite products from biobased materials ... ..more »


Advanced Structures

The FPL has been in the forefront of wood-frame housing research since 1910 and has long been recognized as a world leader in such housing-related areas as engineered wood ... ..more »


Forest Biorefinery

We all know the compelling reasons that the United States needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Historically, the greatest increases in energy demand have been for transportation fuels ... ..more »


Nanotechnology

A leader in wood products research for over a century, the FPL is positioning itself to become the lead Federal research facility for the application of nanotechnology in forest products ... more »


Woody Biomass Utilization

Forests in the United States contain a substantial amount of small-diameter, overstocked, and underutilized material.FPL research projects are exploring the potential of the small-diameter ... ..more »