Carvings uncovered in the Canadian Arctic may be the earliest portraits of the Vikings created in the Americas. But archaeologists have been puzzling over whether the artwork really shows the infamous seafarers.
Now, scientists think a simple, flammable liquid called acetone could help solve this mystery by removing sea-mammal oil and fat from these artifacts and other artifacts found near them. Until now, those contaminants have prevented scientists from getting an accurate radiocarbon date, according to a paper published in the August issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The Vikings, along with other peoples who lived in arctic or subarctic environments, used oils and fat from sea mammals for a variety of purposes, including preparing food and cooking. The substances interfere with radiocarbon dating, because rather than getting the date of the artifact, you may get the date for the oil and fat covering the object, study authors Michele Hayeur Smith, Kevin Smith and Gørill Nilsen wrote in the new paper.
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