Skip to main content Accessibility help

Evaluating the Reliability of AMS Dates on Food Residue on Pottery from the Late Prehistoric Central Plains of North America

  • Donna C Roper (a1)


Age offsets of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) assays on food residue taken from pottery vessels are well-documented in Europe and Asia in cultural contexts were freshwater aquatic products are attested, but are less well studied in North America. The present study examines a series of residue dates from the late prehistoric Central Plains of North America, comparing them with context dates run on annual plant remains. At least 13 of 23 assays are either incongruent with ages on annual plant remains, inconsistent among themselves within a site, or not credible for their cultural context. The conclusion is that food residue from ceramics does not produce consistently accurate dates. Some possible factors that may serve to introduce old carbon to residue samples are discussed. It also is noted that one's conclusions about the reliability of residue may be conditioned by the precision of the age determinations and by the goals of a specific chronology-building effort.



Hide All
Adair, MJ. 2003. Great Plains paleoethnobotany. In: Minnis, PE, editor. People and Plants in Ancient Eastern North America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books. p 258346.
Ahler, SA, Johnson, CM, Haas, H, Bonani, G. 2007. Radiocarbon dating results. In: Johnson, CM, Ahler, SA, Johnson, CM, Haas, H, Bonani, G, editors. A Chronology of Middle Missouri Plains Village Sites. Smithsonian Contributions to Anthropology, Number 47. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press. p 5389.
Beck, ME. 2010. Ceramic vessel use and use alteration: insights from experimental archaeology. In: Ferguson, JR, editor. Designing Experimental Research in Archaeology: Examining Technology Through Production and Use. Boulder: University Press of Colorado. p 4769.
Blakeslee, DJ. 1994. Reassessment of some radiocarbon dates from the Central Plains. Plains Anthropologist 39(148):203–1.
Boudin, M, Van Strydonck, M, Crombé, P. 2009. Radiocarbon dating of pottery food crusts: reservoir effect or not? The case of the Swifterbant pottery from Doel “Deurganckdok” (Belgium). In: Crombé, P, Van Strydonck, M, Sergent, J, Boudin, M, Bats, M, editors. Chronology and Evolution in the Mesolithic of North-West Europe. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. p 727–4.
Boudin, M, Van Strydonck, M, Crombé, P, De Clercq, W, van Dierendonck, RM, Jongepicr, H, Ervynck, A, Lentacker, A. 2010. Fish reservoir effect on charred food residue 14C dates: Are stable isotope analyses the solution? Radiocarbon 52(2):697705.
Craig, OE, Forster, M, Andersen, SH, Koch, E, Crombé, P, Milner, NJ, Stern, B, Bailey, GN, Heron, CP. 2007. Molecular and isotopic demonstration of the processing of aquatic products in Northern European prehistoric pottery. Archaeometry 49(1):135–5.
Crombé, P, Robinson, E, Van Strydonck, M, Boudin, M. 2012. Radiocarbon dating of Mesolithic open-air sites in the Coversand Area of the North-west European Plain: problems and prospects. Archaeometry. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4754.2012.00693.x.
Cummings, LS, Roper, DC. 2010. Ancient recipes revealed!: FTIR analysis of Central Plains tradition pottery. Poster presented at the 68th Plains Anthropological Conference, Bismarck, North Dakota.
Cummings, LS, Logan, MK, Puseman, K, Varney, RA, Murphy, M, Kováčik, P. 2011. Organic residue (FTIR) analysis and AMS radiocarbon dating of samples from sites 25FT54, 25FT56, 25FT354, and 25RW1, Red Willow Creek Valley, Nebraska. Prepared for Kansas State University. PaleoResearch Institute Technical Report 11-140. Golden: PaleoResearch Institute.
Fischer, A, Heinemeier, J. 2003. Freshwater reservoir effect in 14C dates of food residue on pottery. Radiocarbon 45(3):449–6.
Hallgren, F, Possnert, G. 1997. Pottery design and time: the pottery from the TRB site in Skogsmossen, in view of the AMS-datings of organic remains on potsherds. Tor 29:113–3
Hart, JP. 2011. The death of Owasco—redux. In: Rieth, C, Hart, JP, editors. Current Research in New York Archaeology: A.D. 700–1300. New York State Museum Record 2. Albany: The New York State Education Department. p 95108.
Hart, JP, Brumbach, HJ. 2003. The death of Owasco. American Antiquity 68(4):737–5.
Hart, JP, Brumbach, HJ. 2005. Cooking residues, AMS dates, and the Middle-to-Late Woodland transition in central New York. Northeast Anthropology 69:133.
Hart, JP, Lovis, WA. 2007a. A multi-regional analysis of AMS and radiometric dates from carbonized food residues. Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 32:201–6.
Hart, JP, Lovis, WA. 2007b. The freshwater reservoir and radiocarbon dates on cooking residues: old apparent ages or a single outlier? Comments on Fischer and Heinemeier (2003). Radiocarbon 49(3):1403–10.
Hohman-Caine, CA, Syms, EL. 2012. The Age of Brainerd Ceramics. Report to Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Hackensack: Soils Consulting.
Kriiska, A, Lavento, M, Peets, J. 2005. New AMS dates of the Neolithic and Bronze Age ceramics in Estonia: preliminary results and interpretations. Estonian Journal of Archaeology 9(1):331.
Louwe Kooijmans, LP. 2010. The ceramisation of the Low Countries, seen as the result of gender-specific processes of communication. In: Venmontfort, B, Louwe Kooijmans, L, Amkreutz, L, Verjart, L, editors. Pots, Farmers and Foragers. Archaeological Studies Leiden University 20. Leiden: Leiden University Press. p 2739.
Miyata, Y, Minami, M, Onbe, S, Sakamoto, M, Matsuzaki, H, Nakamura, T, Imaura, M. 2011. Difference in radiocarbon ages of carbonized material from the inner and outer surfaces of pottery from a wetland archaeological site. Proceedings of the Japan Academy Series B 87:518–2.
Philippsen, B, Kjeldsen, H, Hartz, S, Paulsen, H, Clausen, I, Heinemeier, J. 2010. The hardwater effect in AMS 14C dating of food crusts on pottery. Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research 268(7–8):995–8.
Redmond, BG. 2006a. A Report of Archaeological Investigations at the Danbury Site (33ot16): 2005 Season. Archaeological Research Reports, No. 147. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Redmond, BG. 2006b. Saving the Danbury site (33Ot16). Available at
Ritterbush, LW. 2002. Leary site revisited: Oneota and Central Plains tradition occupation along the lower Missouri. Plains Anthropologist 47:2514–64.
Roper, DC. 2005. Ceramic period components at the Claussen site, 14WB322, Wabaunsee County, Kansas. The Kansas Anthropologist 26:65119.
Roper, DC. 2006. The Central Plains tradition. In: Hoard, RJ, Banks, WE, editors. Kansas Archaeology. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. p 105–3.
Roper, DC. 2011a. Shell-tempered pottery on the Central Plains. Southeastern Archaeology 30:268–8.
Roper, DC. 2011b. Examining pottery's role in Central Plains tradition foodways. Paper presented at the 69th Plains Anthropological Conference, Tucson, Arizona.
Roper, DC. 2011c. The chronological position of 14RC410, a Little River focus site in Rice County, Kansas, and its implications. Plains Anthropologist 56(220):347–6.
Roper, DC. 2012a. New AMS radiocarbon dating results for Central Plains tradition sites in Kansas and Nebraska. Plains Anthropologist 57(221):3952.
Roper, DC. 2012b. Refining the eastern Central Plains tradition chronology: results of a critical assessment of the radiocarbon age determinations dataset. Paper presented at the 34th Flint Hills Archaeological Conference, Emporia, Kansas.
Roper, DC, Adair, MJ. 2011. Interpreting AMS radiocarbon age determinations from selected Central Plains tradition sites. Plains Anthropologist 56(217):322.
Roper, DC, Adair, MJ. 2012. Additional AMS radiocarbon age determinations for the Central Plains tradition. Plains Anthropologist 57(221):31–8.
Roper, DC, Reed, H. 2003. The 1970 excavations at 14SA415: a Smoky Hill phase lodge. The Kansas Anthropologist 24:4567.
Schulenberg, JK. 2002. New dates for Owasco pots. In: Hart, JP, Rieth, CB, editors. Northeast Subsistence-Settlement Change, A.D. 700–1300. Bulletin 496. Albany: New York State Museum. p 153–6.
Shishlina, NI, van der Plicht, J, Hedges, REM, Zazovskaya, EP, Sevastyanov, VS, Chichagova, OA. 2007. The Catacomb cultures of the Northwest Caspian Steppe: 14C chronology, reservoir effect, and paleodiet. Radiocarbon 49(2):713–2.
Swanton, JR. 1942. Source Material on the History and Ethnology of the Caddo Indians. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
Timofeev, V, Zajceva, G, Possnert, G. 1995. Neolithic ceramic chronology in the south-eastern Baltic area in view of 14C accelerator datings. Fornvännen 90:1928.
Witty, TA Jr. 1962. Archeological Investigations of the Hell Creek Valley in the Wilson Reservoir, Russell and Lincoln Counties, Kansas. Anthropological Series Number 1. Topeka: Kansas State Historical Society.

Evaluating the Reliability of AMS Dates on Food Residue on Pottery from the Late Prehistoric Central Plains of North America

  • Donna C Roper (a1)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed