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Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Composition of Early Holocene Olivella Shell Beads from the Northwest Coast, USA

  • Carla S Hadden (a1), Alexander Cherkinsky (a1), Geoffrey M Smith (a2), Aaron P Ollivier (a3) and Hai Pan (a1)...


Archaeological investigations of the age and origins of marine shell beads are important for understanding the emergence and maintenance of long-distance trade networks in prehistory. In this paper we expand upon and re-examine the incremental carbon (14C and δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope data from two Olivella biplicata shell beads from the LSP-1 Rockshelter, Oregon, USA, to address two common problems in dating marine shell trade goods: (1) the source region is large, adding to uncertainty regarding the appropriate specification of ΔR; and (2) the 14C activity within individual specimens is variable. Although this combination of factors severely limits the dating precision that is possible, we recommend a sampling and calibration approach that accounts for these added sources of uncertainty and minimizes the loss of precision. We recommend (1) sequential sampling in order to quantify the range of variability in 14C within shells; (2) a Bayesian calibration procedure that models the 14C dates as an ontogenetic sequence, in this case constrained by stable isotope sclerochronology; and (3) specifying ΔR in a manner that accounts for the full range of possible reservoir offsets in the source region.


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Selected Papers from the 8th Radiocarbon & Archaeology Symposium, Edinburgh, UK, 27 June–1 July 2016



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