Annual radiocarbon record indicates 16th century BCE date for the Thera eruption


Pearson, Charlotte L.
Brewer, Peter W.
Brown, David
Heaton, Timothy J.
Hodgins, Gregory W. L.; Jull, A. J. Timothy; Lange, Todd; and Salzer, Matthew W.

The mid-second millennium BCE eruption of Thera (Santorini) offers a critically important marker horizon to synchronize archaeological chronologies of the Aegean, Egypt, and the Near East and to anchor paleoenvironmental records from ice cores, speleothems, and lake sediments. Precise and accurate dating for the event has been the subject of many decades of research. Using calendar-dated tree rings, we created an annual resolution radiocarbon time series 1700–1500 BCE to validate, improve, or more clearly define the limitations for radiocarbon calibration of materials from key eruption contexts. Results show an offset from the international radiocarbon calibration curve, which indicates a shift in the calibrated age range for Thera toward the 16th century BCE. This finding sheds new light on the long-running debate focused on a discrepancy between radiocarbon (late 17th–early 16th century BCE) and archaeological (mid 16th–early 15th century BCE) dating evidence for Thera.

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Fig. 1. Annual data and IntCal13. (A) Annual bristlecone pine data (1700–1500 BCE; blue) and Irish oak data (1661–1576 BCE; green) are shown relative to the IntCal13 raw data (red) and all show 2s error. The majority of our annual data fall within the 2s error of the IntCal raw data. (B) Calibration curves for pine (blue) and oak (green) constructed in the same way as IntCal13 (red) are shown with 1s error. From 1700 BCE to c.1660 BCE, and after 1540 BCE, good agreement is shown between our data and the IntCal13 raw data. Between c.1660 BCE and c.1540 BCE, both species, from growth environments c.7900 km apart, indicate a clear and sustained offset from IntCal13.

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Science Advances 2018;4: eaar8241 15 August 2018