Sättuna Radiocarbon

Last September I directed two weeks of excavations at Sättuna in Kaga, an amazing metal detector site I’ve been working at since 2006. I was hoping to find building foundations from a late-6th century aristocratic manor indicated by the metalwork. But I couldn’t get permission to dig the most promising bit of the site. Instead my team of Chester students and I dug off to one side and found no end of pits and hearths, but hardly any artefacts at all. Those bits that we did find are lithics, apparently belonging to a Late Mesolithic shore site.

Yesterday I got the radiocarbon results. They line up pretty well with what we knew from the artefact finds, with two exceptions: there’s no late-6th century at all, and there’s a funny 3rd Millennium BC date that corresponds to none of our finds.

This shows that the people on this site avoided burying stuff that keeps, not just during one era, but over repeated use phases covering thousands of years. Drat.

Lab code




Calibrated date


Oak, rotten

Hearth 45


4462-4338 cal BC (95%)

Late Mesolithic


Hearth 123


2462-2271 cal BC (79%)

Middle/Late Neolithic

Spruce, trunk

Pit 170


321-436 cal AD (86%)

Late Roman/Migration


Hearth 135


412-545 cal AD (95%)


Scots pine, rotten

Posthole 8


763-895 cal AD (81%)


Many thanks to Ulf Strucke for wood species and anatomy determination.


  1. #1 Nomen Nescio
    March 20, 2009

    any chance of a dendrochronologic follow-up on any of these items?

  2. #2 Martin R
    March 20, 2009

    Sorry, no, the subsoil is well-drained sand and we hardly ever find carbonised wood in chunks big enough for dendro anyway. Certainly not so far on that site.

  3. #3 Fredrik S
    March 20, 2009

    Any chance of correlating the funny 3rd Millenium BC date with another sample from the same context? Maybe it´s just contamination by older material?

  4. #4 Martin R
    March 20, 2009

    I see what you mean: it could be half Iron Age charcoal and half Mesolithic, averaging out to a Neolithic date. There’s only one sample bag from that context, and Ulf did select the piece for analysis with his usual care. But it would be entirely feasible to select a new piece out of the bag and run a new analysis.

    However, the whole dig is completely unsexy, and feature 123 is no more interesting than the rest. So for my current project’s purposes, it’s not worth the money to pay for another analysis that may or may not allow us to discount the possibility of Neolithic activity on site.

  5. #5 ArchAsa
    March 20, 2009

    Woohoo! Late Neolithic, possibly Middle Neolithic, nut eaters! I smell a settlement – or possibly a temporary camp for young cow herders. Maybe this place is worth closer inspection after all 😉

    Now all we have to do is invent that pottery sherd detecto I’m still waiting for…
    Isn’t there a technologist out there who wants a shoe-in for a Nobel Prize!?

  6. #6 Jocke
    March 20, 2009

    Intressant det var ju trevligt att få vara med en dag och arbeta där. Ha det….

  7. #7 Bob O'H
    March 21, 2009

    Now all we have to do is invent that pottery sherd detecto I’m still waiting for…

    I find bare feet work perfectly.

  8. #8 ArchAsa
    March 21, 2009

    Bob – kinda difficult if the sherds are 3 feet below ground…
    Or do you have Magic Feet 😀

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