Radiocarbon dating of organic- and carbonate-carbon in Genyornis and Dromaius eggshell using stepped combustion and stepped acidification

M. I. Bird, C. S.M. Turney, L. K. Fifield, M. A. Smith, G. H. Miller, R. G. Roberts, J. W. Magee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


A technique for determining the radiocarbon age of both organic-carbon and carbonate-carbon in the eggshell of the large flightless birds Genyornis newtoni (now extinct) and Dromaius novaehollandiae (extant emu) is presented here. Stepped combustion (for organic-carbon) and stepped acidification (for carbonate-carbon) were used to obtain multiple age determinations for each sample, from which an assessment of the reliability of the ages is possible. Analysis of a Genyornis newtoni eggshell fragment known to have an age considerably beyond the limit of radiocarbon dating has indicated that the backgrounds obtainable using this approach are 0.122±0.033 pMC for the organic-carbon fraction and 0.070±0.025 pMC for the carbonate-carbon fraction. These backgrounds suggest that finite ages up to 50,000-55,000 BP are readily achievable on eggshell using stepped combustion/acidification. Analysis of a single fragment of Genyornis eggshell from Williams Point, central South Australia, suggests that significant contamination of the organic-carbon fraction of the eggshell is possible, while ages for the carbonate fraction appear more reliable and indicate that the eggshell has an age of at least 49,000±2000 BP. A total of six analyses of single Genyornis newtoni and Dromaius novaehollandiae eggshell fragments from the Wood Point deposit in southern South Australia suggest ages for the samples of 41,000±800 and 37,900±700 BP, respectively, while an optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) sample from a location very close to the Genyornis sample has an age of 55±5 ka (1σ). The OSL and calibrated radiocarbon ages for the Genyornis sample and the sand matrix overlap at two standard deviations, suggesting the most likely age for the eggshell and the sand matrix is ∼45 cal ka BP or earlier.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1805-1812
Number of pages8
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Issue number15-17
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Radiocarbon dating of organic- and carbonate-carbon in Genyornis and Dromaius eggshell using stepped combustion and stepped acidification'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this