Radiocarbon Age of Consolidants and Adhesives used in Archaeological Conservation

Author(s): Carley Crann

Year: 2017


When radiocarbon dating archaeological material, it is paramount to understand how the object was conserved and which conservation products were used in order to determine: 1) the best location on the artifact to sample; 2) how to remove the consolidant physically and/or chemically, and; 3) whether or not the consolidant was successfully removed. The archaeologist usually knows the approximate age of the artifact given the context in which it was found so when the radiocarbon age is not as expected, it is possible the consolidant was not completely removed. However, without knowing the radiocarbon signature of the consolidant – this is purely speculation. Current, commonly used consolidants and adhesives cover both natural (animal and fish glues, tree resins, starches) and synthetic materials (acrylics, poly (vinyl acetates), poly (vinyl butyrals), polyethylene glycol, glycerol, cellulose ethers, cellulose esters, cyanoacrylates and soluble nylon). This paper will present data that indicate in which direction – young or old – conservation treatments may skew radiocarbon dates and the importance of knowing the conservation history of older samples and how these results should be interpreted. In addition, a case study on preserved carbonized residuals is presented.

Cite this Record

Radiocarbon Age of Consolidants and Adhesives used in Archaeological Conservation. Carley Crann. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428989)

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Abstract Id(s): 16879