Thacker M (2020) Dating Medieval Masonry Buildings by Radiocarbon Analysis of Mortar-Entrapped Relict Limekiln Fuels-a Buildings Archaeology. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory, 27 (2), pp. 381-438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10816-020-09444-z
This paper considers how the data returned by radiocarbon analysis of wood-charcoal mortar-entrapped relict limekiln fuels (MERLF) relates to other evidence for the construction of medieval northern European masonry buildings. A review of previous studies highlights evidence for probable residuality in the data and reflects on how this has impacted on resultant interpretations. A critical survey of various wood-fired mortar materials and lime-burning techniques is then presented, to highlight evidence suggesting that a broad spectrum of different limekiln fuels has been exploited in different periods and that growth, seasoning, carriage and construction times are variable. It is argued that radiocarbon analysis of MERLF fragments does not date building construction directly and the heterogeneity of the evidence demands our interpretations are informed by sample taphonomy. A framework of Bayesian modelling approaches is then advanced and applied to three Scottish case studies with contrasting medieval MERLF assemblages. Ultimately, these studies demonstrate that radiocarbon analysis of MERLF materials can generate reasonably precise date range estimates for the construction of medieval masonry buildings which are consistent with other archaeological, historical and architectural interpretations. The paper will highlight that these different types of evidence are often complementary and establish that radiocarbon dated building materials can provide an important focus for more holistic multidisciplinary interpretations of the historic environment in various periods.
Medieval buildings; archaeology; radiocarbon; Bayesian; limekiln
Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory: Volume 27, Issue 2