Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 July 2016
For at least 100,000 yr, marine shell beads have been important ornamental and symbolic artifacts intimately associated with the behavior of anatomically modern humans. In California, giant rock scallop (Hinnites multirugosus) beads were once thought to have been used only for the last 1000 yr, where they were considered to be markers of high social status among the Chumash Indians of the Santa Barbara Channel region. Direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating of 1 giant rock scallop ornament and 2 beads from San Miguel Island extends the use of this shell for personal adornment to at least 8000 cal BP. Our study emphasizes the importance of direct AMS 14C dating of artifacts to enhance cultural chronologies and clarify the antiquity of various technologies and associated behaviors. Our results also caution archaeologists when equating artifact rarity with sociopolitical complexity.