Estimation of Age-Depth Relationships

Part of the Developments in Paleoenvironmental Research book series (DPER, volume 5)


An accurate and precise chronology is an essential pre-requisite for any palaeolimnological study. Chronologies give time-scales for events, and hence for rates for patterns and processes, and make it possible to compare and correlate events in different stratigraphical sequences. Palaeolimnology without chronology is history without dates.

As radiocarbon dating is so widely used in palaeolimnology, this chapter focuses on 14C dating, and its associated errors and the calibration of 14C ages to calibrated 14C ages. Calibration is an essential step before constructing age-depth models, There are several approaches to establishing age-depth relationships – linear interpolation, polynomial regression, splines, mixed-effect models, and Bayesian age-depth modelling involving chronological ordering or wiggle-matching. The critical question of model selection is discussed and future developments are outlined, along with details of available software.


Age-depth modelling Bayesian approaches Calibration Interpolation Mixed-effects models Monte Carlo simulations Polynomials Radiocarbon dates Splines Wiggle matching 



We are very grateful to Keith Bennett for generously providing the first draft of this chapter. We are also grateful to John Birks, Steve Juggins, Andy Lotter, and Richard Telford for comments on earlier drafts of this chapter. We thank Heather Ibbetson for kindly providing her case study. This is publication no. A336 from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, Archaeology & PalaeoecologyQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Bjerknes Centre for Climate ResearchUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  3. 3.Norwegian Forest and Landscape InstituteFanaNorway

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