Monday, December 15, 2008

Amber Necklace 4,000 Years Old

Amber is not found in England, apparently. The nearest place amber could come from is the Baltic. Hence,the discovery of a 4,000-year-old amber necklace in NW England amazes the archaeologists. Read about in here in Science Daily, or right from the source at Manchester University, one of the sponsors of the dig.

That's where this picture comes from.

I wondered how the necklace was dated--was it from the cist, or grave, that they found it in? But according to this Naked Scientists discussion, amber can be radio-carbon dated. And according to the World of Amber, the tints may tell what type of trees the amber formed in. A reddish tint might indicate a deciduous tree (cherry or plum) while a pine tree makes lighter amber. However, the Dragonfly Amber site claims that the trees of the Baltic area that made amber were similar to pines and spruces.

All amber may darken to brown after long exposure to air. Since this necklace was found in a stone-lined grave, I'm not sure if that applies. Was it buried under dirt or exposed to air? And does the radio-carbon dating reveal when the necklace was crafted, or just when the amber formed (probably millions of years ago)?

Anyway, I learned that amber can be distinguished from glass by rubbing it--real amber grows warm when rubbed; glass does not. A plastic imitation of amber contains camphor, and when rubbed it will give off that odor. So next time I look at a collection of amber jewelry that looks too much like bakelite to be real (because some pieces do!) I know how to test it.

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