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AMS Dating of the Late Copper Age Varna Cemetery, Bulgaria

Higham, Thomas; Slavchev, Vladimir; Gaydarska, Bisserka; Chapman, John

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Thomas Higham

Vladimir Slavchev

Bisserka Gaydarska

John Chapman


The Varna I cemetery, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, is one of the most remarkable sites in European prehistory, with the world’s earliest large-scale assemblage of gold artifacts. Modeling of the first series of 14 accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates yielded a duration of occupation at the site of ca. 150 years, ~4600–4450 cal BC. However, there were insufficient paired human–animal dates for a full consideration of the question of the marine reservoir effect. Here, a fuller set of 71 dates from 53 graves is presented. We identify a small reservoir effect in a number of individuals based on 14C, as well as carbon and nitrogen stable isotopes. We test the effect of this by building a series of different Bayesian models. Our favored model, including a correction for some of the human determinations, shows activity at the cemetery starting at 4596–4516 cal BC and ending 4427–4341 cal BC (at 95.4% probability). The overall span of activity covers ~120–260 years (93.6% prob.). The modeling shows that Varna I falls toward the beginning of the Bulgarian Late Copper Age.


Higham, T., Slavchev, V., Gaydarska, B., & Chapman, J. (2018). AMS Dating of the Late Copper Age Varna Cemetery, Bulgaria. Radiocarbon, 60(02), 493-516.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 1, 2018
Publication Date Apr 1, 2018
Deposit Date May 15, 2018
Publicly Available Date Sep 1, 2018
Journal Radiocarbon
Print ISSN 0033-8222
Electronic ISSN 1945-5755
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 60
Issue 02
Pages 493-516


Accepted Journal Article (414 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This article has been published in a revised form in Radiocarbon This version is free to view and download for private research and study only. Not for re-distribution, re-sale or use in derivative works. ©  2018 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona.

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