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CALCINED BONE AS A RELIABLE MEDIUM FOR RADIOCARBON DATING: A TEST USING PAIRED NORTH AMERICAN SAMPLES

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

Abstract

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.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

(paleosci@gmail.com, corresponding author Chatters)

References

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CALCINED BONE AS A RELIABLE MEDIUM FOR RADIOCARBON DATING: A TEST USING PAIRED NORTH AMERICAN SAMPLES

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

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