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Dr. Rachel Wood

Research Officer

Radiocarbon Facility
Research School of Earth Sciences
The Australian National University
Canberra 0200

T: +61 2 612 50117



Current Research

Student Projects


Working with Dr Stewart Fallon, I am responsible for chemical pretreatment of samples submitted to the ANU for radiocarbon dating. If you have queries about submitting samples to the laboratory, dating a specific sample type or radiocarbon dating in general, please do not hesitate to email.


Research Interests


My research focuses on the production of accurate radiocarbon dates that can be used to build chronologies. These in turn can be used to address questions that are of interest to archaeologists.


Radiocarbon pretreatment, particularly of bone and charcoal


Bone and charcoal are some of the most commonly dated samples, but particularly in the Pleistocene, contamination can be difficult to remove. In warm climates where preservation is limited, dating organic materials can be made even more challenging. A current project involves the dating of severely degraded bone with ninhydrin to target short fragments of collagen which do not normally survive the ultrafiltration protocol routinely used to date bone at the ANU.


Representative publications

·      Wood R.E.,  Douka, K., Boscato, P., Haesaerts, P. Sinitsyn, A., Higham, T.F.G. (2012) Testing the ABOX-SC method: Dating known-age charcoals associated with the Campanian Ignimbrite. Quaternary Geochronology, 9, 16-26

·      Wood, R.E., Bronk Ramsey, C., Higham, T.F.G. (2010), Refining the background correction for radiocarbon dating of bone collagen with the ultrafiltration protocol at ORAU, Radiocarbon, 52, 1336-1350

·      Ascough, P.L., Bird, M.I., Meredith, W., Wood, R.E., Snape, C.E., Brock, F., Higham, T.F.G., Large, D., Apperley, D., (2010), Hydropyrolysis: Implications for radiocarbon pre-treatment and characterization of Black Carbon, Radiocarbon, 52, 600-611

·      Bird, M.I., Charville-Mort, P.D.J., Ascough, P.L., Wood, R., Higham, T. Apperley, D. (2010), Assessment of oxygen plasma ashing as a pre-treatment for radiocarbon dating, Quaternary Geochronology, 5, 435-442

Palaeolithic archaeology, particularly the European Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition


My DPhil focused on the chronology of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition and final Neanderthals in Iberia, within a project lead by Prof Thomas Higham (University of Oxford) examining this period throughout western Europe. Nitrogen content was used to identify well preserved bones, and the ultrafiltration protocol was used to extract and purify collagen from butchered bone. We have built a reliable chronology for Iberia, demonstrating that two of the latest Neanderthal/Middle Palaeolithic assemblages are significantly earlier than previously thought, and in doing so cast doubt on the reliability of other very late Neanderthal assemblages in the region.


Representative publications

·      Wood, R.E., Barroso-Ruiz, C., Caparros, M., Jorda. J.F., Galvan Santos, B., Higham, T.F.G. (2013) Radiocarbon dating casts doubt on the late chronology of the Middle to Upper Palaeolithic transition in southern Iberia, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

·      Wood, R.E., Higham T.F.G., Torres, T, Tisnerat-Laborde, N., Valladas, H., Ortiz, J.E., Lalueza-Fox, C., Sanchez-Moral, S., Canaveras, J.C., Roses, A., Santamaria, D., de la Rasilla, M., (2013). A new date for the Neanderthals from El Sidron Cave (Asturias, Northern Spain). Archaeometry. 55(1), 148-158.

·      Higham, T., Basell, L., Jacobi, L., Wood, R., Bronk Ramsey, C., Conard, N.J., (2012). Testing models for the beginnings of the Aurignacian and the advent of figurative art and music: The radiocarbon chronology of Geisenklosterle. Journal of Human Evolution, 62(6), 664-676

·      Higham, T.F.G, Jacobi, R.M, Julien, M., David, F., Basell, L.S., Wood, R.E., Davies, W. Bronk Ramsey, C. (2010), The evolution of Neanderthal symbolic behaviour: new evidence from the Grotte du Renne at Arcy-sur-Cure, France, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(47), 20234-20239

·      Zilhão, J., Angelucci, D.E., Badal-García, E., d’Errico, F., Daniel, F., Dayet, L., Douka, K.,  Higham, T.F.G., Martínez-Sánchez, M.J., Montes-Bernárdez, R., Murcia-Mascarós, S., Pérez-Sirvent,  C., Roldán-García, C., Vanhaeren, M., Villaverde, V., Wood, R., Zapata, J., (2010), Symbolic use of marine shells and mineral pigments by Iberian Neandertals, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914088107



Australian Archaeology


I am currently attempting to radiocarbon date some of the earliest human occupations of south eastern Australia. Sites such as Cloggs Cave, Victoria (excavated by Josephine Flood) and Burrill Lake, NSW, were dated in the 1970s using conventional methods. At <30 ka cal BP, they appear significantly younger than the earliest sites elsewhere in Australia. I aim to test whether this is an artefact of the very old radiocarbon dating originally undertaken. I have started working at Cloggs Cave (with Jo Flood), but this is a proving to be a challenge as bone and charcoal preservation is extremely poor, requiring new protocols to be introduced into the laboratory. I am also involved with a project lead by Nicola Stern who is surveying and excavating in the iconic landscape of Lake Mungo.


Representative publications

In progress