The use of radiocarbon dating to analyze mortar and charcoal inclusions within mortar or plaster is a useful way to date the construction of architecture, particularly when options for other chronometric methods are limited. In the Yalahau region of northern Quintana Roo, Mexico, members of the Yalahau Regional Human Ecology Project have faced challenges in dating buildings made of large blocks of stone in the Megalithic architectural style. The Megalithic style poses serious problems for any analysis, as excavating into structures with stones weighing several tons can be dangerous, expensive, and time consuming. Additionally, there are no associated sculptures, texts with dates, or other traditionally accessible chronological markers. These factors have resulted in a reliance on a ceramic chronology despite the uncertainty of the dating of many ceramic types in this region, as well as the questionable contextual associations between recovered ceramics and architectural construction phases. Megalithic-style structures at the ancient Maya site of El Naranjal have residual mortar with charcoal inclusions left behind during the mortar-making processes that can be extracted and dated with AMS 14C methods. Several samples of mortar and charcoal were obtained from structures 1 and 10 from exposed exterior walls and an interior vault. The resulting dates confirm the date for the construction based on ceramics excavated from the same site.
Document Object Identifier (DOI)
Mathews, J. P. (2001). Radiocarbon dating of architectural mortar: A case study in the Maya region, Quintana Roo, Mexico. Journal of Field Archaeology, 28, 395-400. doi: 10.1179/jfa.2001.28.3-4.395
Journal of Field Archaeology