Volumes of Worth—Delimiting the Sample Size for Radiocarbon Dating of Parchment

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Medieval manuscripts are invaluable archives of the written history of our past. Manuscripts can be dated and localized paleographically, but this method has its limitations. The Fragmenta membranea manuscript collection at the National Library of Finland has proved difficult to date using paleographic methods. Radiocarbon dating has been applied to manuscripts of parchment before, but a systematic protocol for radiocarbon dating of parchment has not been established with a minimally destructive sampling strategy. In this work, we have established a radiocarbon dating procedure for parchments combining a clean-room based chemical pretreatment process, elemental analyzer combustion, automatic graphitization and accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) measurements to reduce the AMS target size from a typical 1 mg of carbon. Prolonged acid treatment resulted in improved dating accuracy, since this is consistent with the manufacturing process of medieval parchment involving a lime bath. Two different combustion processes were compared. The traditional closed tube combustion (CTC) method provided a well-established though labor-intensive way to produce 1 mg AMS targets. The Elemental Analyzer-based process (EA-HASE, Elemental Analyzer Helsinki Adaptive Sample prEparation line), is designed for fast combustion and smaller sample sizes. The EA-HASE process was capable of reproducing the simulated radiocarbon ages of known-age samples with AMS graphite target sizes of 0.3 mg of carbon, corresponding to a 3 mm2 area of a typical medieval parchment. The full potential of the process to go down to as little as 50 mu g will be further explored in the future in parallel to studies of sample-specific contamination issues.

Sidor (från-till)105-120
Antal sidor16
StatusPublicerad - feb. 2021
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad


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