Dating Pleistocene Archeological Sites by Protein Diagenesis in Ostrich Eggshell

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Science  06 Apr 1990:
Vol. 248, Issue 4951, pp. 60-64
DOI: 10.1126/science.248.4951.60


Eggshells of the African ostrich (Struthio camelus), ubiquitous in archeological sites in Africa, have been shown by laboratory simulation experiments to retain their indigenous organic matrix residues during diagenesis far better than any other calcified tissue yet studied. The rate of L-isoleucine epimerization to D-alloisoleucine follows reversible first-order kinetics and has been calibrated for local temperature effects and used to estimate the age range of stratified archeological sites. Age estimates are consistent with radiocarbon dates from several stratified archeological sites. With adequate calibration, this technique can provide accurate ages to within 10 to 15 percent for strata deposited within the last 200,000 years in the tropics and the last 1,000,000 years in colder regions such as China.

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