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 Material Feature BP Calibrated date Period
Ua-37499 Oak, rotten Hearth 45 5560±40 4462-4338 cal BC (95%) Late Mesolithic
Ua-37500 Hazel Hearth 123 3855±35 2462-2271 cal BC (79%) Middle/Late Neolithic
Ua-37502 Spruce, trunk Pit 170 1660±30 321-436 cal AD (86%) Late Roman/Migration
Ua-37501 Maple Hearth 135 1585±30 412-545 cal AD (95%) Migration
Ua-37498 Scots pine, rotten Posthole 8 1205±35 763-895 cal AD (81%) Viking

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

More like this

I'm almost done with the report from my excavations at Sättuna in Kaga last September. Here's an excerpt. Finds and radiocarbon dates allow us to identify five phases on-site, two of them corresponding to the dates of the metal detector finds that occasioned the excavations. Late Mesolithic: finds…
My excavation at Sättuna has taken an interesting turn. I'm not feeling particularly down about it, but the fact is that we're getting the second worst possible results. The worst result would be to mobilise all this funding and personnel and find nothing at all. We're certainly not there. The…
We finished digging today. Tomorrow I'll take a few more charcoal samples and return the tools to the units that lent them to me. The dig closes eight days earlier than planned. A week and a half of digging has identified the following phases on site, none of which were known to us beforehand:…
Success and failure in archaeological fieldwork is a graded scale. I wrote about this in autumn 2008:My excavation at Sättuna has taken an interesting turn. I'm not feeling particularly down about it, but the fact is that we're getting the second worst possible results. The worst result would be…

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

By Nomen Nescio (not verified) on 20 Mar 2009 #permalink

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.

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?

By Fredrik S (not verified) on 20 Mar 2009 #permalink

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.

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!?