The absolute chronology of Neopalatial Crete and the early Late Bronze Age Aegean – and in particular of the Late Minoan I A Theran Eruption on Santorini – is a pivotal point for the study of the entire eastern Mediterranean Bronze Age, while at the same time providing one of the most interesting (and intricate) case-studies for combined archaeological and high-precision radiocarbon dating.
Since the 1970s, the traditional, archaeology-based chronology has been questioned following the analysis of radiocarbon measurements from Thera and elsewhere in the eastern Mediterranean, while the recent publication of the new annual-resolution section of the calibration curve IntCal20 for the 1700-1500 BCE period has shown that remaining uncertainties affect the arguments for both the archeo-historically-based ‘Low’ chronology – with the eruption event in the last decades of the 16th century BCE, and the radiocarbon-based ‘High’ chronology, which sets the eruption event in the second half of the 17th century BCE. The present impasse in the debate illustrates how the construction of high-precision, combined archaeological-radiocarbon based chronologies can only be successful if it considers the inherent variability in both radiocarbon and archaeological data.
Multi-variate analysis, in this case the combination of Correspondence Analysis (CA)-based pottery seriation and 14C dating, represents a highly promising alternative. This is because of a fundamental problem that is inherent to the application of 14C-based dating methodologies, namely that, because of the strongly oscillating structure of the portion of the tree-ring calibration curve for the relevant period, regional/local differences in 14C absorption by samples depending on seasonality, latitude and altitude, and inter-laboratory differences, a multitude of different possible calibrated dates exists for each radiocarbon date. By contrast, by applying CA to carefully selected and well documented pottery assemblages from recent excavations on Crete, and then gradually expanding the area of study to the whole of the early LBA Aegean, it may be possible to achieve a new (relative but ordered) precise chronological framework, which would be independent from the oscillations in the calibration curve. The final step in CA-dating is to provide a relative sequence-scale with an absolute timescale, and this can be obtained by the 14C-dating of samples that have well-defined CA-positions.
Despite constantly growing interest from the scientific community, the combination of CA seriation and Radiocarbon dating is still in a pioneering phase. The aim of this workshop is to confront, discuss and explore this approach, as well as other possible integrated methods.
The following themes will be explored:
1) Radiocarbon dating and calibration studies.
2) Stratigraphy and chronological pottery seriation in Neopalatial Crete and the early Late Bronze Age Aegean, including inter-site/inter-regional differences.
3) Chronological interrelations between Neopalatial Crete, early Late Bronze Age Aegean and Egypt.
4) Multivariate analysis applications in archaeology, with a specific focus on Correspondence Analysis (CA) for chronological seriation.
5) Future perspectives for combined archaeological-high precision 14C studies on Aegean LBA chronology and beyond.