The Impact of Radiocarbon Dating on North African Archaeology

  • Fred Wendorf

Abstract

The first archaeological sample dated by 14C came from North Africa. It was from Sakkara, a ceremonial center not far from modern Cairo. The dated sample was a piece of acacia wood from the tomb of Zoser, an Egyptian pharaoh of the Third Dynasty (Sample C-1); three other Egyptian samples were among the first hundred 14C dates produced. After such a beginning, one would have expected 14C dating to play a dominant role in the archaeology of North Africa; however, its application and impact have been uneven, particularly for the pharaonic periods in Egypt. For prehistory throughout North Africa, 14C dating produced a true revolution in our ideas about the origin and development of almost every known cultural complex. The dating technique also profoundly changed our concept of cultural relationships within North Africa, and between North Africa and other areas. To appreciate the impact of 14C dating on North African prehistory, one only has to read any of the syntheses written before the widespread application of 14C dating (Gobert & Vaufrey 1932; Balout 1955; Vaufrey 1955). Virtually none of the chronological relationships so confidently proposed before 1960, from the Middle Paleolithic to the Neolithic, has survived the onset of absolute dating provided by 14C.

Keywords

Radiocarbon Date Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Archaeological Research Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Kharga Oasis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1992

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  • Fred Wendorf

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