Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • James C. Chatters (a1), James W. Brown (a2), Steven Hackenberger (a3), Patrick McCutcheon (a3) and Jonathan Adler (a1)...


Radiocarbon dating using charcoal and bone collagen, two standards of archaeological chronology, can be difficult to impossible in environments where natural burning is common and bone does not preserve well. In such settings, charcoal ages cannot always be trusted and collagen is unavailable. Calcined bone can be a viable alternative medium in these situations but it has rarely been exploited in the Americas. One area that could benefit from its use is the forested Pacific Northwest. We compare calcined bone ages with charcoal and/or collagen dates from individual features or discrete cultural strata in 10 Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia sites dating between 9000 and 100 B.P. Resulting radiocarbon age estimates based on calcined bone closely match those based on charcoal and/or collagen in nearly all cases. We obtained calcined bone dates from three additional Holocene-aged sites that had not previously produced accurate results, obtaining findings consistent with estimates based on cross dating. Preserving well where all other organic media of cultural origin are lost or unreliable, calcined bone holds promise for dating sites in conifer forests and other acidic soil settings, and can allow researchers to refine archaeological sequences that have long defied accurate chronometric analysis.

La datación por radiocarbono usando carbón y colágeno óseo, dos estándares para la cronología arqueológica, puede ser difícil o imposible en ambientes donde los incendios naturales son comunes y el material óseo no se conserva bien. En tales condiciones los resultados del fechamiento por carbón no siempre son confiables y el colágeno no puede ser recuperado. La datación de hueso calcinado puede ser una técnica alternativa viable en estas situaciones, pero rara vez se ha explotado en América. Un área que podría beneficiarse de su uso es el boscoso Noroeste del Pacífico de Norteamérica. Se compararon las edades de fragmentos de hueso calcinado con aquellas de muestras de carbón o colágeno desde fogatas, estructuras individuales o estratos culturales discretos en 10 sitios de Washington, Oregón, Idaho y Columbia Británica que datan entre 9000 y 100 a.P. Las estimaciones resultantes de la edad de radiocarbono sobre hueso calcinado coinciden con aquellas procedentes de carbón o colágeno en casi todos los casos. Se obtuvieron fechas sobre hueso calcinado para tres sitios adicionales que previamente no habían producido resultados precisos, obteniendo fechas coherentes con las estimaciones basadas solamente en estilo cultural. Dado que se conserva bien en contextos donde se pierden o no son confiables todos los demás medios orgánicos de origen cultural, el hueso calcinado representa una promesa para la datación de sitios en bosques de coníferas y otros ambientes con suelos ácidos, permitiendo refinar las secuencias arqueológicas que previamente habían desafiado un análisis cronométrico preciso.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Available formats


Corresponding author

(, corresponding author Chatters)


Hide All
Bense, Judith A. 1972 The Cascade Phase: A Study in the Effects of the Altithermal on a Cultural System. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.
Brown, James W., and Chatters, James C. 2016 A Lithic Analysis of the Marymoor Site (45KI9): Development of a Seriation Using a Limited Stratified Sample. Paper presented at the 69th Annual Northwest Anthropological Conference, Tacoma, Washington.
Butler, B. Robert 1961 The Old Cordilleran Culture in the Pacific Northwest. Occasional Papers No. 5, Idaho State College Museum, Pocatello.
Chatters, James C. 1980 Original unpublished field notes from the Tualdad Altu (45KI59) data recovery excavations. Manuscript on file, Burke Museum, Seattle, Washington.
Chatters, James C. 1994 Hells Canyon Archaeology, 1993: Dry Creek (10IH13) and Hells Canyon Creek (35WA78B). North American Paleoscience, Richland, Washington. Submitted to Hells Canyon National Recreation Area U.S. Forest Service. Copies available from Department of Anthropology, Central Washington University, Ellensburg.
Chatters, James C., and Cooper, Jason B. 2016 Eagle Gorge Terrace (45KI1083) an Upland Hunting Camp and Its Place in the Economic Lives of the Precontact Puget Salish. Journal of Northwest Anthropology 50:192211.
Chatters, James C., Cooper, Jason B., LeTourneau, Phillipe D., and Rooke, Laura C. 2011 Understanding Olcott: Data Recovery at 45SN28 and 45SN303, Snohomish County , Washington. AMEC Environment and Infrastructure. Submitted to Department of Public Works, Snohomish County, Washington. Copies available from AMEC Foster Wheeler, Bothell, Washington.
Chatters, James C., and Fairbanks, Marc 2013 Archaeological Damage Assessment for the Bray Site (45PI1276). Applied Paleoscience. Submitted to Gary Bray, Edgewood, Washington, and the Washington Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP). Copies available from DAHP, Olympia, Washington.
Chatters, James C., Rhode, David E., and Hoover, Karin A. 1990 Tualdad Altu (45KI59): A Prehistoric Riverine Village in Southern Puget Sound. Archaeology in Washington 2:2348.
Cherkinsky, Alexander 2009 Can We Get a Good Radiocarbon Age from “Bad Bone”? Determining the Reliability of Radiocarbon Age from Bioapatite. Radiocarbon 51:647655.
Cooper, Jason B. 2012 Howard A. Hanson Dam Archaeological District (DT 184) Data Recovery, Site Monitoring, and Cultural Resources Survey, King County, Washington. AMEC Environment & Infrastructure. Submitted to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District. Copies available from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Daugherty, Richard D., Flenniken, J. Jeffrey, and Welch, Jeanne M. 1987 A Data Recovery Study of Layser Cave (45-LE-223) in Lewis County, Washington. Western Heritage. Submitted to Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Vancouver, Washington. Copies available from Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Diaz, Alejandra, Prentiss, Anna M., McDonald, Rebecca, Nehlich, Olaf, and Richards, Michael 2017 Diet and Mobility on the Canadian Plateau: Isotopic Analysis of Domestic Dog and Other Fauna from the Bridge River Site. Paper presented at the 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Greengo, Robert E., and Houston, Robert 1970 Excavations at the Marymoor Site. Reports in Archaeology No. 4, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle.
Hackenberger, Steven, and Thompson, R. W. 1995 Archaeological Investigations, Tryon Creek Site (35-WA-288), 1991–1992, Hells Canyon Recreational Area, Wallowa County, Oregon. University of Wisconsin Centers. Submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, Hells Canyon Recreation Area and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Copies available from Steven Hackenberger, Central Washington University, Ellensburg.
Holden, J. L., Phakeyu, P. P., and Clement, J. G. 1995 Scanning Electronic Microscope Observations of Incinerated Human Femoral Bone: A Case Study. Forensic Science International 74:1728.
Huls, C. M., Herkenkeuser, H., Nadeau, M. J., Grootes, P. M., and Andersen, N. 2010 Experimental Study on the Origin of Cremated Bone Apatite Carbon. Radiocarbon 52:587599.
Long, Austin, and Rippeteau, Bruce 1974 Testing Contemporaneity and Averaging Radiocarbon Dates. American Antiquity 39:205215.
Lanting, Jan N., Aerts-Bijma, Anita T., and van derPlicht, Johannes 2001 Dating of Cremated Bone. Radiocarbon 43:249254.
Lohse, Ernest S., and Schou, C. 2008 The Southern Columbia Plateau Projectile Point Sequence: An Informatics Approach. In Projectile Point Sequences in Northwestern North America, edited by Carlson, Roy L. and Magne, Martin P. R., pp. 187208. Archaeology Press, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Colombia.
Lubinski, Patrick M., and Burtchard, Greg C. 2005 Fryingpan Rockshelter (45PI43): A Subalpine Fauna in Mount Rainier National Park. Archaeology in Washington 11:2534.
McCutcheon, Patrick T. 1992 Burned Archaeological Bone. In Deciphering a Shell Midden, edited by Stein, Julie K., pp. 347370. Academic Press, New York.
McCutcheon, Patrick T., and Dampf, Steve K. 2002 Central Washington University's 1998 Systematic Archaeological Survey in Mount Rainier National Park. Central Washington University. Submitted to National Park Service, Seattle. Copies available from Mount Rainier National Park.
McCutcheon, Patrick T., Parfitt, Anne B., Brown, James W., Davis, David R., Limberg, Caitlin, and Middleton, Sherri 2017 Investigating Intra-Site Variation for Holocene Epoch Human Land Use at the Sunrise Ridge Borrow Pit Site (45PI408). Central Washington Archaeological Survey, Central Washington University. Submitted to the National Park Service, Seattle, Washington. Copies available from the National Park Service.
Matson, R. G., and Coupland, Gary 1995 The Prehistory of the Northwest Coast. Academic Press, New York.
Morgan, Vera E. 1999 The ST-101 Sequim Bypass Archaeological Project: Mid-to Late-Holocene Occupations on the Northern Olympic Peninsula, Clallam County, Washington. Eastern Washington University Reports in Archaeology and History 100108. Archaeological and Historical Services, Cheney, Washington.
Nelson, Charles M. 1976 The Radiocarbon Age of the Biederbost Site (45SN100) and Its Interpretive Significance for the Prehistory of the Puget Sound Basin. Washington Archaeologist 20 (1):117.
Ognibene, Ted J., Bench, Graham, Vogel, John S., Peaslee, Graham F., and Murov, Steve 2003 A High Through-Put Method for the Conversion of CO2 Obtained from Biochemical Samples to Graphite in Septa-Sealed Vials for Quantification of 14C through Accelerator Mass Spectrometry. Analytical Chemistry 75:21922196.
Olsen, Jesper, Heinemeier, Jan, Bennike, Pia, Krause, Cille, Hornstrup, Karen M., and Thrane, Henrik 2008 Characterisation and Blind Testing of Radiocarbon Dating of Cremated Bone. Journal of Archaeological Science 35:791800.
Prentiss, Anna M. 2017 The Archaeology of the Fur Trade Occupation at Housepit 54. In The Last House at Bridge River: The Archaeology of an Aboriginal Household during the Fur Trade Period, edited by Prentiss, Anna M., pp. 4266. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.
Prentiss, Anna M., Cross, Guy, Foor, Thomas A., Hogan, Matthew, Markle, Dirk, and Clarke, David S. 2008 Evolution of a Late Prehistoric Winter Village on the Interior Plateau of British Columbia: Geophysical Investigations, Radiocarbon Dating, and Spatial Analysis of the Bridge River Site. American Antiquity 73:5982.
Oetting, Albert C. 1994 The Archaeology of Buffalo Flat: Cultural Resources Investigations for the CONUS OTH-B Buffalo Flat Radar Transmitter Site, Christmas Lake Valley, Oregon. Heritage Research Associates. Submitted to U.S. Air Force. Copies available from Heritage Research Associates, Eugene, Oregon.
Randolph, Joseph E., and Dahlstrom, Max 1977 Archaeological Test Excavations at Bernard Creek Rockshelter. University of Idaho Anthropological Research Manuscript Series, No. 42. Laboratory of Anthropology, University of Idaho, Moscow.
Reid, Ken C., and Chatters, James C. 1997 Kirkwood Bar: Passport in Time Excavations at 10IH699 in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Rainshadow Research and Applied Paleoscience. Submitted to Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, Enterprise, Oregon. Report available from Applied Paleoscience, Bothell, Washington.
Rorabaugh, Adam N. 2015 Investigating Restricted Knowledge in Lithic Craft Traditions among the Pre-Contact Coast Salish. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.
Shipman, Pat, Foster, Giraud F., and Schoeninger, Margaret 1984 Burnt Bones and Teeth: Experimental Study of Color, Morphology, Structure, and Shrinkage. Journal of Archaeological Science 11:307325.
Stafford, Thomas W., Edgar Hare, P., Curie, Lloyd, Timothy Hull, A. J., and Donahue, Douglas J. 1991 Accelerator Radiocarbon Dating at the Molecular Level. Journal of Archaeological Science 18:3572.
Stiner, Mary C., Kuhn, Steven L., Weiner, Stephen, and Bar-Yosef, Ofer 1995 Differential Burning, Recrystallization, and Fragmentation of Archaeological Bone. Journal of Archaeological Science 22:223327.
Surovell, Todd A., Boyd, Joshua R., Vance Haynes, C., and Hodgins, Gregory W. L. 2016 On the Dating of the Folsom Complex and Its Correlation with the Younger Dryas, the End of Clovis, and Megafaunal Extinction. PaleoAmerica 2:8189.
Taylor, R. E. 1987 Radiocarbon Dating: An Archaeological Perspective. Academic Press, New York.
Van Strydonck, Mark, Boudin, Mathieu, and De Mulder, Guy 2009 14C Dating of Cremated Bones: The Issue of Sample Contamination. Radiocarbon 51:553568.
Van Strydonck, Mark, Boudin, Mathieu, Hoefkens, Michiel, and De Mulder, Guy 2005 14C Dating of Cremated Bones, Why Does It Work? Lunula 13:310.
Zazzo, Antoine, Lebon, Matthieu, Chiotti, Laurent, Comby, Clothilde, Delqué-Kolic, Emmanuelle, Nespoulet, Roland, and Teiche, Ina 2013 Can We Use Calcined Bones for 14C Dating the Paleolithic? Radiocarbon 55:14091421.
Zazzo, Antoine, and Saliège, Jean-Francois 2011 Radiocarbon Dating of Biological Apatites: A Review. Paleogeography, Paleoclimatology, Paleoecology 310:5261.
Zazzo, Antoine, Saliège, Jean-Francois, Lebon, Matthieu, Lepetz, Sebastien, and Moreau, Christophe 2012 Radiocarbon Dating of Calcined Bones: Insights from Combustion Experiments under Natural Conditions. Radiocarbon 54:844866.
Zazzo, Antoine, Saliège, Jean-Francois, Person, Alain, and Boucher, H. 2009 Radiocarbon Dating of Calcined Bones: Where Does the Carbon Come From? Radiocarbon 51:601611.


  • James C. Chatters (a1), James W. Brown (a2), Steven Hackenberger (a3), Patrick McCutcheon (a3) and Jonathan Adler (a1)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed