I wanted to put together a small collection of notes (or ‘Infrequently Asked Questions’) to accompany the
catalogue of dates to explain some of the choices I’ve made in how I collect and structure the data etc.
The serious bit
I have taken every care I can to ensure that the data used here has been thoroughly checked, but it is still likely that errors remain. Users are reminded that all data and references should be independently checked for accuracy. No liability is accepted or implied from the use or misuse of these data.
If/when you find errors, I'd be grateful if you could inform me (rmchapple[replace wit 'at' symbol]hotmail.com), so they may be corrected.
Citation of this work in publications should refer only to the originating document, not this resource. However, if the date is listed here as 'pres. comm.' or 'forthcoming' this resource may be cited in the following manner:
(pers. comm. XXX, cited in Chapple 2011). The full reference should read something like:
Chapple, R. M. 2011 'Catalogue of radiocarbon determinations & dendrochronology dates (December 2015 version)' Oculus Obscura Press, Belfast.
Anything highlighted in yellow is to be treated with caution. Sometimes there is missing or inconsistent data or just needs to be rechecked. Use all appropriate caution when using such dates.
One of my first decisions in putting this Catalogue together was to only include material from my own library. The reasons for this are simple – I’ve a pretty decent library and as a field archaeologist, I rarely have the ability to get to a well-stocked university research library. An advantage of this is that I when errors or inconsistencies are found in the data, I can check them easily at home. One of the disadvantages of this approach is that quite frequently the date is first recorded in a secondary publication, and only later have I acquired the original publication. My reasoning is that it’s better to have any reference to the date than none. I’d love to reference every date with its original point of publication, but I’ve neither the time nor the money to do so!
A huge boon to this project has been the availability of original work on the internet and downloadable as PDFs … JSTOR, Archive.org, Academia.edu and the Royal Irish Academy (especially PRIA section C) have been really useful, as are certain commercial companies who have selflessly made their data available to the public (Eachtra Archaeological Projects, take a bow!). The same rule applies here … if I can download and keep a copy, I’ve used it, but stuff I can’t copy I’ve not! The NRA websites have been another good source, and one where I’ve broken my own rules, as I’m not able to examine and copy original reports. In this instance, the NRA Darabase will stand until such time as a publication is available.
I’m also thankful to various researchers who have sent me original copies, off prints, photocopies and PDFs of their own work! I am much indebted and very grateful for your assistance.
On the topic of dissemination of your published work: academia.edu is a wonderful idea and I urge everyone to get involved and upload PDFs of their work! There’s also Mendeley and Scribd etc. - and I'm sure that more will emerge over time.
Beta Analytic Inc
Let me just be clear – I have absolutely nothing against Beta Analytic! They’re a good company that have provided me with good dates and excellent support over the years. My gripe is with those archaeologists who don’t realise or don’t take the time to learn that Beta return two types of date … the Measured Radiocarbon Age and the Conventional Radiocarbon Age. The Measured age records the 14C surviving in the sample. The Conventional age is essentially the Measured age with corrections added to account for isotopic fractionation etc. Sometimes, but not always, there are a couple of radiocarbon decades between the two dates. Of the two it is only the Conventional Radiocarbon Age that should be quoted in publications … feel free to quote the Measured date too, but label it as such and place it alongside the Conventional age! The situation is so bad in parts of this catalogue that I am unable to offer any solid advice as to which of the two dates that have appeared in publications is the correct one! I’ve asked before, and I’ll ask again – please be careful in using these dates and use the right ones!
Submitting new dates
If you have other dates, either from your own excavations, of have found in other published sources, I'd also be grateful if they could passed on to me for inclusion in future releases of this document. As I have said above, I want to be able to easily recheck any data in the catalogue, so either a physical copy of a paper (off-print, photocopy etc.) or a PDF is useful. If this is not possible, I’m perfectly willing to accept as much information as you can offer, though the full, uncalibrated date is essential … the lab code is also nice to have.
The slightly less serious bit
Terminology in general
I started this resource for my own use and never expected that I’d eventually consider distributing it further afield. Although I’ve always tried to be consistent and accurate, there have been times where I’ve been led by the description given in the first publication I’ve encountered the date … sometimes these are pretty general and sometimes they’re perhaps too specific. This is one of the many reasons I urge all users of this resource not to trust it completely, but use it as a guide to your own research!
I simply refuse to use the term ‘fulacht fiadh’ … to me it’s wrong on every level! I would ask you to read Ó Néill, J. 2003-2004 ‘Lapidibus in igne calefactis coquebatur: the historical burnt mound 'tradition'’ The Journal of Irish Archaeology 12&13, 79-86 and Waddell, J. 2008 ‘Monumental beginnings: the archaeology of the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road [Review]’ Archaeology Ireland 22.3, 47. I agree that ‘burnt mounds’ is not necessarily the best or most accurate term, but it’s the best we got! That said, please feel free to call them what you like, just don’t expect me to join you!
Early Christian or Early Medieval?
I realise that all the cool kids have long ago changed to calling this period ‘Early Medieval’ and that ‘Early Christian’ is terribly passé! Well, good for you! I’m old enough to have gone to university when ‘Early Christian’ was acceptable … I like it … I’m happy with it and I won’t change! I would also direct anyone wishing to argue the point to: Lynn, C. J. 1992 ‘Soap Box: what's in a name?’ Archaeology Ireland 6.4, 31 and while Hodkinson, B. 1993 ‘Letters: The Later Early Christian Medieval Iron Age!’ Archaeology Ireland 7.1, 44 makes a good case for calling the period the Late Iron Age, it was just never going to catch on!
Kilns … corn or cereal drying?
In case anyone were to accuse me of being consistent, I have to say I prefer ‘cereal drying kiln’ above ‘corn drying kiln’ … yes, I was brought up with the latter, but I simply prefer calling them ‘cereal drying kilns’ … go figure!
Londonderry or Derry?
I don’t care what anyone else calls it, in all instances I’ve put both the city and the county down as Londonderry … please feel free to change it to what you prefer … given the choice, I’d call it ‘Oaktown’ or ‘The Collected Works of J B Priestly, edited and annotated by a chipmunk-goldfish hybrid’ … but that’s just me!
Once again, I thank you all for following my work and supporting this project!
R M Chapple