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Six Decades of Radiocarbon Dating in New World Archaeology 1

  • R E Taylor (a1)

Abstract

Radiocarbon (14C) dating provided New World archaeological research with the first continent-wide common chronometric scale that transcended the mostly relative site- and region-specific chronological sequences that had been assembled during the preceding century of fieldwork. 14C data continue to play a critical role in establishing a chronometric framework for the 5-century-long debate concerning the timing of the initial peopling of the New World. Other issues where 14C results have been of particular importance include the origins and development of New World agriculture and determination of the relationship between the Western and Classic Maya long-count calendar. The introduction of a third-generation measurement technology of accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) beginning in the late 1970s has provided a means of obtaining analyses on milligram and microgram amounts of carbon permitting more detailed critical approaches to increasing the accuracy of 14C values on certain sample types—particularly human skeletal materials. It also provided a more effective means of allowing greater dating precision in situations where such data had an important bearing on the validity of inferences about the rates of cultural evolutionary change in New World societies.

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References

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