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A Critical Approach to 14C Dating in the Caribbean: Using Chronometric Hygiene to Evaluate Chronological Control and Prehistoric Settlement

  • Scott M. Fitzpatrick (a1)

Abstract

Radiocarbon (14C) dating is one of the most important tools for archaeologists. Although radiocarbon dates provide a temporal foundation for analyzing the remains of past cultures, it is critical that these dates be periodically reviewed for consistency and accuracy to ensure chronological control. A review of publications pertaining to Caribbean archaeology since the 1960s demonstrates that researchers there have often failed to adequately report and critique radiocarbon dates, making it difficult to fully assess their value in chronology building. A chronometric hygiene analysis of over 600 dates reveals that when isolated, culturally ambiguous, poorly provenienced, and contaminated dates are rejected, only about 80 percent remain useful. In addition, the paucity of early Saladoid (ca. 500 B.C.–A.D. 1) and Archaic age (ca. 2500–500 B.C.) dates in the southern Lesser Antilles suggests that there was not a “stepping-stone” migration of prehistoric peoples northward from South America into the Lesser Antilles.

La datación radiocarbónica es uno de los instrumentos más importantes en la arqueología. Aunque la misma proporciona una base temporal para el análisis de los restos arqueológicos, las dataciones deben ser periódicamente reevaluadas para establecer su consistencia y exactitud, asegurando el control cronológico. Una revisión de la literatura arqueológica caribeña desde los años 1960 muestra que los investigadores de la región no han informado o evaluado adecuadamente las dataciones radiocarbónicas, dificultando la evaluación de su validez en el establecimiento de cronologías. Un análisis cronométrico minucioso de más de 600 dataciones revela que al eliminar aquellas dataciones aisladas, con ambigüedad cultural, y contaminadas, únicamente el 80 por ciento puede ser utilizado para la investigación arqueológica. Además, debido a la escasez de datos sobre la cultura Saladoide temprana (ca. 500 a.C–1 d.C.) y el Precerámico (2500–500 a.C.) en las Antillas Menores meridionales, es necesario reevaluar la teoría ampliamente aceptada de un patrón migratorio conocido como “stepping-stone” de poblaciones prehistóricas Sudamérica hacia las Antillas Menores.

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A Critical Approach to 14C Dating in the Caribbean: Using Chronometric Hygiene to Evaluate Chronological Control and Prehistoric Settlement

  • Scott M. Fitzpatrick (a1)

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