A thermoluminescence (TL) analysis of ceramics from cairns in Jordan: using TL to integrate off-site features into regional chronologies
This paper demonstrates how thermoluminescence (TL) dating can help resolve long-standing chronological problems facing stone-built cairn monuments and tombs in Jordan. Cairns are ubiquitous features in the archaeological landscape of the Middle East, but they rarely contain cultural material that can be used to place them in regional chronologies. Although cairns often produce small, broken sherds from larger, fired clay vessels, these sherds do not exhibit sufficient diagnostic form or decorative style to date them by traditional archaeological means. This study uses TL to date nine sherds that were collected during the excavation of five cairns in the eastern escarpment of the Jordan Rift Valley. The results indicate that one cairn was built in the 4th-3rd millennia BC, which supports traditional approaches to cairns as an Early Bronze Age phenomenon. However, the sherds from the remaining four cairns were dated to the 1st millennium AD, suggesting that the tradition of cairn-use in Jordan was far more complex than currently thought. This research has broader implications for any study of artefact-poor surface features, as it demonstrates the value of developing field strategies that maximize the recovery of samples suitable for archaeometric rather than archaeological dating techniques.