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High Resolution Radiocarbon Dating at the Gerstle River Site, Central Alaska

  • Ben A. Potter (a1), Joshua D. Reuther (a2), Bradley A. Newbold (a3) and David T. Yoder (a4)

Abstract

Early Holocene cultural material at Gerstle River, central Alaska, provides excellent contextual controls for examining variability in radiocarbon dating. Over 4,000 bone and teeth fragments are directly associated with over 7,000 lithic artifacts and 10 discrete charcoal-rich hearths in a thin occupation layer (∼10 cm vertical thickness) within well-stratified loess deposits. Radiocarbon dating of the hearth features indicates overlapping ages at 2σ, suggesting contemporaneity. This study uses the high level of resolution at Gerstle River to evaluate systematic radiocarbon variation due to different materials (collagen and charcoal), different pretreatments of collagen (regular and ultrafiltered), and interlaboratory variation through paired bone and hearth charcoal dates, split samples, and cross-checks. Accurately dating bone collagen is important given the closer association of dated samples with human activities (e.g., butchering) compared with charcoal fragments in certain contexts (e.g., driftwood, paleosols, or alluvial deposits). This study demonstrates the efficacy of bone collagen dating with ultrafiltration to counter potential site-specific contamination. These results also indicate that even in high-resolution situations with little evidence for old-wood effect and contamination, considerable variability can exist among cross-check and even split samples from single pieces of charcoal from short-lived species.

El material cultural del Holoceno Temprano en Gerstle River, Alaska central, proporciona un excelente control de contexto para la examinación de la variabilidad en la dotación por radiocarbono. Más de 4.000 fragmentos de huesos y dientes son directamente asociadas con más de 7.000 artefactos líicos y 10 hogares discretos conteniendo carbón en una ocupación de una capa delgada (∼ 10 cm de espesor vertical) depósitos de loess bien estratificados. La dotación por radiocarbono de las características del hogar indica una superposición de edades entre 2σ lo que sugiere la contemporaneidad. Este estudio utiliza el alto nivel de resolución en Gerstle River para evaluar la variación de radiocarbono sistemática por razón de diversos materiales (colágeno y carbón), diferentes pretratamientos de colágeno (regular y ultrafiltrado), y variación entre laboratorios a través de datación del hueso emparejado y las fechas de carbón de hogar, muestras divididas, y comprobaciones cruzadas. Este estudio demuestra la eficacia de colágeno de los huesos que datan de ultrafütración contra la contaminación potencial. Efectivamente datación por colágeno de los huesos es importante por asociación en general, más cerca de las muestras de fecha con las actividades humanas (por ejemplo, despiece) de fragmentos de carbón vegetal. Estos resultados indican también que incluso en situaciones de alta resolución con poca evidencia de efecto de madera vieja y la contaminación, puede existir una variabilidad considerable entre cotejo e incluso las muestras divididas de solas piezas de carbón vegetal de especies de vida corta.

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