Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Physics Division

Physics Division Seminars

Physics Division Seminars bring us speakers on a variety of physics related subjects. Usually these are held in the Building 6008 large Conference Room, at 3:00 pm on the chosen day, but times and locations may vary. For more information, contact our seminar chairman,

Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri
Tel (Office): (865) 574-6124  (FAX): (865) 574-1268

Thu., October 27, 2005, at 3:00 p.m. (refreshments at 2:40 p.m.)

Synchronizing cultures in the past: How to combine natural sciences and humanities (A World Year of Physics 2005 Distinguished Lecture)

Walter Kutschera, Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator (VERA), University of Vienna
Building 5200, Room 202

Carbon-14 is a wonderful gift of nature for archaeology and related fields to establish absolute time scales. Yet, it has its limitations due to the natural variations of the 14C content in the atmosphere. Great advances in both archaeological excavations and 14C measurements by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) led to pushing both fields to their limits, in order to decide crucial issues in ancient history. In this talk, we will focus on the synchronization of civilizations in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Second Millennium BC. In the middle of this millennium, some 3500 years ago, the volcanic eruption of Thera (the modern Greek island of Santorini) set an important time mark. Yet, its exact date is elusive. Various methods of the natural sciences (14C dating, dendrochronology, ice core dating, analysis of volcanic ash by neutron activation and mass spectrometry) and the humanities (archaeology, oriental studies, egyptology, history) are employed to solve the problem. So far, no consensus has been reached. We will discuss the current situation, which will show that all methods are pushed to the limit of their applicability. A possible approach for the solution of this problem will be discussed.
Streaming Link for Seminar: