Considerations on the provenance determination of plant ash glasses using strontium isotopes

  • Degryse P
  • Shortland A
  • De Muynck D
 et al. 
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Strontium isotopic analysis has been proposed as a suitable method to determine the primary production location of ancient plant ash glasses. The technique is based upon the assumption that Sr enters this glass type with the plant ash used as a flux material, and that the87Sr/86Sr ratio of the resulting glass reflects the geological provenance of that flux. In such case, the bulk Sr isotopic composition of the bedrock should be inherited unchanged in the plants growing on that bedrock. Different types of plant ash glasses have been shown to have widely differing87Sr/86Sr compositions. In this study, the87Sr/86Sr composition of several plant species growing on different bedrock types is measured, and compared to the bulk Sr isotopic composition and petrology of that bedrock. The paper shows that the87Sr/86Sr ratio of these plants is a function not only, or even mostly, of the local geology, but also of the Sr isotopic composition of the total water consumed by that plant. This is highly likely to be both plant species dependent and dependent on the small-scale hydrology of the area immediately surrounding the plant. In this way, no definite relation between the isotopic composition of a geological outcrop and the plants growing on this bedrock can be inferred. Hence, the isotopic composition of a plant ash made from such plants is uncertain and moreover species dependent. Though groups of plant ash glasses can certainly be compared in time and space using Sr isotopes, it may prove difficult to ascertain a plant ash glass type to a specific geographical-geological region. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Bracken
  • Heather
  • Moss
  • Petrology
  • Scotland
  • Stratigraphy
  • Strontium isotopes

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