Archaeological Site Index to Radiocarbon Dates from Great Britain and Ireland

The database is now accessible for online searching via the Archaeology Data Service catalogue.

The database originated in a printed index compiled by Cherry Lavell and produced by the Council for British Archaeology in 1971, with four later printed supplements to 1982. The radiocarbon determinations were gathered and collated by hand from all available sources (the journal Radiocarbon plus the entire range of UK and Irish archaeological publications, both national and more local) to produce the most accurate and complete description possible for each published date. Apart from a number of determinations that were poorly (incompletely) published, the list was comprehensive up to 1982; but thereafter the flow of dates from laboratories became too rapid for a part-time editor to collect and process, and in 1986 the collection process virtually ceased.

At about that time, however, a project to computerise the list began under the aegis of R L Otlet and A J Walker (at that time running the Harwell radioisotope laboratory, later in a private partnership - RCD Radiocarbon Dating). However, the lack of proper funding inevitably meant that progress was very slow. Since almost no radiocarbon dating laboratories were producing computerised date lists it was not possible to receive machine-readable dates directly, and manual collection and data-entry still had to be the norm. A fresh burst of activity from 1991 resulted in the accumulation and processing of many more determinations, to a total of some 4000 dates. Records of many more have been copied from the literature but await computerisation; nonetheless there remains a large backlog of material to be gleaned from journals and monographs of the mid-1980s onwards.

The extant computerised data have now been transferred from their original format (the STATUS system of Harwell Computer Power) into the present one. The records are by now as error-free as the editor can make them, but occasional slips may well remain. Nor has it been possible to apply the strict terminological control needed; almost no work has been done on compiling a suitable thesaurus, so users are advised to try alternative terms to improve retrievability. It would be a kindness if users could report any outright errors found so that they can be corrected.

The database should therefore be regarded as somewhat provisional, and the given references checked, because they will nearly always give more details about the sample to assist in assessing both its context and its validity. Users should also bear in mind that post-1982 publications may well have given further details or even offered alternative interpretations of the data represented here.

Information from the CBA's Radiocarbon Index has been supplemented in this database by further dates from the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit datelist index (although the database contains less detailed information on these samples). It is intended to approach other Radiocarbon dating laboratories to gather additional dates and update the database on a periodic basis.

The fields included in the current database comprise:

A typical record from the database looks like this:

Name of Resource Radiocarbon date, Sample number BM-809
Description Charcoal from under rampart of smaller fort at Castle Hill, Tonbridge, Kent, England.
Two hillforts
Archaeol Cantiana, 86, 1971, 233-4; Archaeol Cantiana, 87, 1972, 219; Archaeol Cantiana, 91, 1976, 61-85; Archaeol Cantiana, 94, 1978, 268-70; Radiocarbon, 18, 1976, 35-6 
Project Date(s)  
Drawn from
choose for collection details
Archaeological Site Index to Radiocarbon Dates from Great Britain and Ireland (Collection)
Resource details  
Data compiled from CBA Index
Responsible for Dating British Museum
Responsible for Fieldwork J H Money
Record Maintainers
choose for contact details
Council for British Archaeology (Contact)
Map reference
choose for explanation
(OSGB) TQ 607 438
District/ Unitary Authority  
Radiocarbon Date 2178 +/- 61 B.P.
Period Bronze Age to Iron Age
Subject 5a Hillfort
Resource Identifiers
use when citing resource
Depositors ID: BM-809
Record last checked 14 December 1998

The database currently holds 6,382 records.

The database can also be consulted offline via the CBA. A typical screen from the offline database is as follows:


Contact point for further details:

Mike Heyworth, Director
Council for British Archaeology
St Mary's House
66 Bootham
York YO30 7BZ
tel +(44) (0)1904 671417
fax +(44) (0)1904 671384

Text prepared by Mike Heyworth (CBA Deputy Director & Information Officer) & Cherry Lavell (Radiocarbon Index Editor)

Last updated 18 January 1999

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© Council for British Archaeology, 1999