Timing the Neolithic transition: The application of fluoride dating at Tell Halula, Syria

E. Guerrero, M. Schurr, I. Kuijt, J. Anfruns, M. Molist

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The study of Near Eastern Neolithic villages provides a unique means of tracing subsistence strategy, population growth, health, and emerging social inequality associated with agricultural origins. However, disentangling these patterns requires a detailed comprehension of the chronological placement of individual households in the site. In this paper, we present a test to determine the reliability and applicability of the fluoride dating method (a relative dating method) on human dentition of 40 samples from 28 Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (or PPNB) burials from the site of Tell Halula, in Syria. This method, applied here for the first time on a Neolithic Near East case study, is an alternative when other dating methods, like radiocarbon dates, do not provide the required temporal resolution to address particular research problems. Nonetheless, the results obtained in the fluoride analysis show how both the age at death of individuals, and the integrity of the burial plug enormously affect the amount of fluoride absorbed by teeth, so that only a small subset of the full dataset was suitable for fluoride dating. Although the distribution of fluoride values of dentine from the small sample of burials from suitable contexts matches the expected chronology, and corroborates the hypothesis that the occupation at Halula extends from the Middle to the Late PPNB, our analysis illustrates the need for a better understanding of the different sources of error in fluoride dating to improve the method itself, and to obtain more reliable fluoride chronologies. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1496-1501
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


  • Fluoride
  • Human dentition
  • Near East
  • Neolithic
  • Relative dating method


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