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Skin-based samples (leather, skin, and parchment) in archaeological, historic and museum settings are among the most challenging materials to radiocarbon (14C) date in terms of removing exogenous carbon sources—comparable to bone collagen in many respects but with much less empirical study to guide pretreatment approaches. In the case of leather, the 14C content of materials used in manufacturing the leather can vary greatly. The presence of leather manufacturing chemicals before pretreatment and their absence afterward is difficult to demonstrate, and the accuracy of dates depends upon isolating the original animal proteins and removing exogenous carbon. Parchments differ in production technique from leather but include similar unknowns. It is not clear that lessons learned in the treatment of one are always salient for treating the other. We measured the 14C content of variously pretreated leather, parchment, skin samples, and extracts, producing apparent ages that varied by hundreds or occasionally thousands of years depending upon sample pretreatment. Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and C:N ratios provided insight into the chemical composition of carbon reservoirs contributing to age differences. The results of these analyses demonstrated that XAD column chromatography resulted in the most accurate 14C dates for leather and samples of unknown tannage, and FTIR allowed for the detection of contamination that might have otherwise been overlooked.
Accelerator mass spectrometry radiocarbon (AMS 14C) dates (n = 78) from human bone collagen were analyzed in the largest high-resolution chronology study to date at the ancient city of Teotihuacan in central Mexico (ca. AD 1–550). Samples originate from the residential neighborhood of La Ventilla, located in the heart of this major urban center. Here, a trapezoidal model using Bayesian statistics is built from 14C dates combined with data derived from the stylistic analysis of ceramics from burial contexts. Based on this model, we suggest possible refinements to Teotihuacan’s ceramic chronology, at least within the La Ventilla neighborhood. We also explore the abandonment and reoccupation of La Ventilla after the political collapse of Teotihuacan in the Metepec and Coyotlatelco phases. Findings suggest that these ceramic phases began earlier than is currently projected and that the well-documented abandonment period of La Ventilla may have occurred more abruptly than originally estimated.
Deposits linked to abandonment have been widely recorded across the Maya lowlands, associated with the final activities occurring in ceremonial areas of Classic Maya centers. Various models have been applied to explain the activities that lie behind the formation of these contexts, including those linked to rapid abandonment (e.g., warfare) and others focused on more protracted events (termination rituals, and/or pilgrimages). Here, we assess Bayesian models for three chronological scenarios of varying tempo to explain the formation of peri-abandonment deposits at Baking Pot, Belize. Using stratigraphic information from these deposits, hieroglyphic dates recovered on artifacts, and direct dates on human skeletal remains and faunal remains from distinct layers in three deposits in Group B at Baking Pot, we identify multiple depositional events that spanned the eighth to ninth centuries AD. These results suggest that the processes associated with the breakdown of institutionalized rulership and its command of labor to construct and maintain ceremonial spaces were protracted at Baking Pot, with evidence for the final depositional activity dated to the mid-to-late ninth century. This interval of deposition was temporally distinct from the earlier deposition(s) in the eighth century. Together, these data offer a detailed view of the end of the Classic period at Baking Pot, in which the ceremonial spaces of the site slowly fell into disuse over a period of more than a century.
Analysis of human remains and a copper band found in the center of a Late Archaic (ca. 5000–3000 cal BP) shell ring demonstrate an exchange network between the Great Lakes and the coastal southeast United States. Similarities in mortuary practices suggest that the movement of objects between these two regions was more direct and unmediated than archaeologists previously assumed based on “down-the-line” models of exchange. These findings challenge prevalent notions that view preagricultural Native American communities as relatively isolated from one another and suggest instead that wide social networks spanned much of North America thousands of years before the advent of domestication.
Grave-good typologies have traditionally formed the basis for chronological frameworks in many areas of the world, including the Lika region of Croatia. Here, the authors report the first AMS radiocarbon dates from Late Bronze Age Lika (c. 1200–800 BC)—a period assumed to be synonymous with the emergence of the local Iapodian culture. Comparisons between the absolute dates and the relative chronological assignments of key burial contexts show inconsistencies between the dating methods that lead the authors to propose an alternative narrative for Iapodian emergence and socio-political reorganisation at the end of the Bronze Age.
Archaeological survey and excavations in the mangrove-estuary zone south of Izapa have generated an understanding of how the environment and human exploitation patterns changed during the Archaic and Formative periods. Archaic-period archaeological remains are not present, but the sedimentary record shows that Archaic people were clearing the coastal-plain forest for agricultural purposes. This activity augmented delivery of sediments to the littoral zone, which expanded the mangrove forest and created a productive environment that could be colonized by Early Formative villagers by around 1600 cal b.c. Population growth during the Early Formative created conditions that favored emergence of specialized pyro-industries, especially salt production, by around 1000 cal b.c. Production intensity increased thereafter, especially during the Late Formative period, coincident with the apogee of Izapa. Salt production became more episodic during the Terminal Formative period, when interior populations were declining to a nadir after cal a.d. 250.
Izapa is famous for its monumental architecture and extensive corpus of carved stelae dated to the Late Formative Guillén phase (300–100 cal b.c.). The site was first established, however, as the capital of a kingdom during the second half of the Middle Formative period (750–300 cal b.c.). Little is known of the first centuries of the site's occupation or how this early kingdom coalesced with Izapa as its capital. In 2012, the Izapa Regional Settlement Project (IRSP) excavated 21 test units and ran 10 radiocarbon accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dates in order to begin correcting this lacuna. These excavations were the first at the site to screen soil matrices and recover artifact samples that can be quantitatively analyzed.
We undertook excavations in areas north and south of Group B, the original center of Izapa. This work dates the northern expansion of the site's main platform (under Mound 30a) to the Terminal Formative Itstapa phase (cal a.d. 100–300) that resulted in a doubling of the platform's size. Further, we documented that there were three distinct construction episodes in the Terminal Formative expansion and that a central staircase and ramp were built of stone during the second episode. Buried below the Terminal Formative platform expansion was a white clay surface built during the Escalón phase (750–500 cal b.c.) and used through to Guillén times. At the long, linear Mound 62 that defines the eastern edge of Izapa's site core, we documented two episodes of Guillén-phase monumental construction. Buried below this construction fill at Mound 62, a hearth feature and stone alignment are dated to the late Middle Formative based on radiocarbon assays and the results of ceramic analysis. Excavations at Mound 72 and 73 documented that Izapa's E-Group (newly recognized with lidar [light detection and ranging] data) was established in the late Middle Formative period and then significantly augmented during the Guillén phase. The architectural program at Izapa saw its apogee during the Late Formative period, but was first established during the preceding centuries of the Middle Formative. Ten new AMS dates confirm the dating of the Escalón, Frontera, and Guillén phases to 750–100 cal b.c.
Ceramic analysis allowed us to differentiate quantitatively between midden deposits and construction fill through the site's occupation and to recognize domestic versus public spaces during the first centuries of the Izapa kingdom's coalescence. We identify late Middle Formative period middens based on the high density of ceramics in addition to good surface preservation of sherds and a lack of temporal mixing of types. The designation of high-artifact density middens contrasts with the contents of Late and Terminal Formative construction fill with lower ceramic sherd densities and mixing of temporally diagnostic types. Off-mound contexts (where construction fill was mined) had even lower ceramic densities than construction fill and the sherds were very eroded. Analysis of ceramic remains from late Middle Formative period midden deposits also allowed us to infer differences in public and domestic areas of the site during the first centuries of its occupation. Formal and metric variables from these ceramic assemblages identify dish-to-jar ratios that differentiate domestic contexts (with an assortment of vessel forms) from more publically oriented areas of the site (with more serving dishes). The differential distribution of rim diameters of fancy and plain dishes allows us to identify areas of Izapa where domestic activities predominate and indicate that more publically oriented feasting practices occurred at the site center near the main pyramid (Mound 30a) during the late Middle Formative period.
Since the mid-19th century, western Oregon's Willamette Valley has been a source of remains from a wide variety of extinct megafauna. Few of these have been previously described or dated, but new chronologic and isotopic analyses in conjunction with updated evaluations of stratigraphic context provide substantial new information on the species present, timing of losses, and paleoenvironmental conditions. Using subfossil material from the northern valley, we use AMS radiocarbon dating, stable isotope (δ13C and δ15N) analyses, and taxonomic dietary specialization and habitat preferences to reconstruct environments and to develop a local chronology of events that we then compare with continental and regional archaeological and paleoenvironmental data. Analysis of twelve bone specimens demonstrates the presence of bison, mammoth, horse, sloth, and mastodon from ~ 15,000–13,000 cal yr BP. The latest ages coincide with changing regional climate corresponding to the onset of the Younger Dryas. It is suggested that cooling conditions led to increased forest cover, and along with river aggradation, reduced the area of preferred habitat for the larger bodied herbivores, which contributed to the demise of local megafauna. Archaeological evidence for megafauna–human interactions in the Pacific Northwest is scarce, limiting our ability to address the human role in causing extinction.
Radiocarbon dates from known age, pre-bomb eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) shells provide local marine reservoir corrections (ΔR) for Chesapeake Bay and the Middle Atlantic coastal area of eastern North America. These data suggest subregional variability in ΔR, ranging from 148±46 14C yr on the Potomac River to −109±38 14C yr at Swan Point, Maryland. The ΔR weighted mean for the Chesapeake's Western Shore (129±22 14C yr) is substantially higher than the Eastern Shore (−88±23 14C yr), with outer Atlantic Coast samples falling between these values (106±46 and 2±46 14C yr). These differences may result from a combination of factors, including 14C-depleted freshwater that enters the bay from some if its drainages, 14C-depleted seawater that enters the bay at its mouth, and/or biological carbon recycling. We advocate using different subregional ΔR corrections when calibrating 14C dates on aquatic specimens from the Chesapeake Bay and coastal Middle Atlantic region of North America.
We report high-resolution macroscopic charcoal, pollen and sedimentological data for Agua Caliente, a freshwater lagoon located in southern Belize, and infer a late Holocene record of human land-use/climate interactions for the nearby prehistoric Maya center of Uxbenká. Land-use activities spanning the initial clearance of forests for agriculture through the drought-linked Maya collapse and continuing into the historic recolonization of the region are all reflected in the record. Human land alteration in association with swidden agriculture is evident early in the record during the Middle Preclassic starting ca. 2600 cal yr BP. Fire slowly tapered off during the Late and Terminal Classic, consistent with the gradual political demise and depopulation of the Uxbenká polity sometime between ca. 1150 and 950 cal yr BP, during a period of multiple droughts evident in a nearby speleothem record. Fire activity was at its lowest during the Maya Postclassic ca. 950–430 cal yr BP, but rose consistent with increasing recolonization of the region between ca. 430 cal yr BP and present. These data suggest that this environmental record provides both a proxy for 2800 years of cultural change, including colonization, growth, decline, and reorganization of regional populations, and an independent confirmation of recent paleoclimate reconstructions from the same region.
Evidence for aboriginal whale hunting, long thought to be a practice limited to Northwest Coast tribes in northern Washington and British Columbia’s Vancouver Island, was previously reported at the Par-Tee site on the Oregon coast between about cal AD 620 and 990. An age estimate for a humpback whale phalanx with an embedded elk bone harpoon point was based on radiocarbon dates on charcoal not directly associated with the whale bone. We present high-resolution accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dates for purified bone collagen extracted directly from the whale phalanx and embedded harpoon point. A calibrated date for the harpoon point places the whale hunting event between about cal AD 430 and 550. The apparent 14C age of the whale bone is estimated to be 220±37 14C yr older than the marine model age at that time, consistent with values from the eastern Pacific. These new dates suggest that whale hunting took place on the Oregon coast as much as 200–500 yr earlier than previously reported and more than a millennium before historic contact in the region. Our research highlights the significance of museum collections and high-resolution AMS 14C dating for addressing a variety of issues related to ancient archaeological sites and cultures.
Archaeologists have traditionally relied upon relative ceramic chronologies to understand the occupational histories of large and socially complex polities in the Maya lowlands. High-resolution accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating can provide independent chronological control for more discrete events that reflect cultural change through time. This article reports results of AMS 14C dating of stratified sequences at the residential group Tzutziiy K’in, associated with the major Maya polity of Cahal Pech in the Belize Valley. Cahal Pech is one of the earliest permanently settled sites in the Maya lowlands (1200 cal BC), and was continuously occupied until the Terminal Classic Maya “collapse” (~cal AD 800). We use Bayesian modeling to build a chronology for the settlement, growth, and terminal occupation of Tzutziiy K’in, and compare our results to chronological data from the monumental site core at Cahal Pech. The analyses indicate that Tzutziiy K’in was first settled by the Late Preclassic period (350–100 cal BC), concurrent with the establishment of several other large house groups and the growth of the Cahal Pech site core. Terminal occupation by high-status residents at this house group occurred between cal AD 850 and 900. This study provides a framework for interpreting patterns of spatial, demographic, and sociopolitical change between households and the Cahal Pech site core.
The multicomponent Dry Creek site, located in the Nenana Valley, central Alaska, is arguably one of the most important archaeological sites in Beringia. Original work in the 1970s identified two separate cultural layers, called Components 1 and 2, thought to date to the terminal Pleistocene and suggesting that the site was visited by Upper Paleolithic huntergatherers between about 13,000 and 12,000 calendar years before present (cal B.P.). The oldest of these became the typeassemblage for the Nenana complex. Recently, some have questioned the geoarchaeological integrity of the site's early deposits, suggesting that the separated cultural layers resulted from natural postdepositional disturbances. In 2011, we revisited Dry Creek to independently assess the site's age and formation. Here we present our findings and reaffirm original interpretations of clear separation of two terminal Pleistocene cultural occupations. For the first time, we report direct radiocarbon dates on cultural features associated with both occupation zones, one dating to 13,485-13,305 and the other to 11,060-10,590 cal B.P.
The geographic and chronological distribution of eyed bone needles in North American Paleoindian sites led Osborn (2014) to propose that these distinctive artifacts date primarily to the Terminal Pleistocene Younger Dryas Cold Event and were essential to making close-fitting clothes needed to survive frigid winter conditions. Our study of a museum collection from Tule Lake Rock Shelter (CA-SIS-218A) in the high Klamath Basin area supports Osborn’s argument. We present nine high-precision accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon assays from a 2.5 m deep cultural sequence, demonstrating that Paleoindians occupied the site primarily during the Younger Dryas. Although only about .5 m3 of the Paleoindian deposits at CA-SIS-218A were excavated, fragments of four small bone needles were recovered, three of which contain whole or partial eyes. Two fragments of large mammal cortical bone from the same levels contain remnants of “groove and snap” fractures that may be related to the production of needle blanks. The bone needles from Tule Lake Rock Shelter extend the geographic range of these distinctive Paleoindian artifacts into the high desert region of Northern California.
Archaeologists working in the Belize Valley have argued for the persistence of Maya populations from the Classic (AD 300–900) through Postclassic (AD 900–1500) periods since Gordon Willey's groundbreaking settlement survey and excavation work in the 1950s. This is contrary to the trajectory recorded in some parts of the Maya region where there is clear evidence for political disruption and population decline at the end of the Classic period. The argument for continuous Classic to Postclassic occupation in the Belize Valley remains ambiguous due to researchers' reliance on relative ceramic chronologies. This article reports the results of direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating of human skeletons (n = 12) from the important center of Baking Pot, Belize, which is thought to provide some of the best ceramic evidence for continuity in the valley. The AMS dates show a long span of mortuary activity between the Middle Preclassic and Late Classic periods (405 cal BC to cal AD 770), with a hiatus in activity during the Early Postclassic (cal AD 900–1200) and subsequent activity in the Late Postclassic (cal AD 1280–1420). These results are not consistent with the idea that Baking Pot was occupied continuously from the Classic through Postclassic periods. This work highlights the need for additional AMS 14C work at Baking Pot and elsewhere to establish absolute chronologies for evaluating the political and demographic collapse of Classic Maya regional centers.
The eastern Adriatic is a key area for understanding the mechanisms and effects of the spread of agriculture. This article presents an accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon chronology for the introduction and subsequent development of farming villages on the eastern shore of the Adriatic (∼6000–1700 cal BC) and evaluates this in comparison with the established pottery chronology based on stylistic data from Pokrovnik (Drniš) on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. Models for the spread of agriculture rely heavily on changing pottery styles to define cultural groups and trace geographic relationships. Based on AMS 14C dates presented here, Impressed Wares first appear in central Dalmatia by 6000 cal BC and persist until 5300 cal BC, well into what is generally termed the Middle Neolithic. Similarly, a typical Middle Neolithic ware, figulina, appeared earlier than anticipated. These findings stand in contrast to cave and rockshelter assemblages in the eastern Adriatic, but mirror assemblages from farming villages on the Italian Adriatic coast. This study argues that the similarities in ceramic assemblage composition and change through time may have less to do with direct contacts between areas, but more with the nature of ceramic production and consumption at village sites in general. These data shed light on the limitations of regional ceramic chronologies in the eastern Adriatic and highlight the necessity for systematic expansion of 14C chronologies to address the social, economic, and ecological relevance of early farming in the Adriatic for the spread of agriculture in Europe and the Mediterranean.
In this paper, we report 11 AMS radiocarbon dates from 8 Prehispanic fortifications located in the Huaura Valley, central coast of Perú. Small fragments of organic material embedded in preserved mud mortar in architecture, and samples from construction layers exposed by looter's holes were used to date architectural features without undertaking extensive excavations. These dates contribute toward refining the chronology of fort building in the valley, and provide a test for assumptions about temporal change and architectural style. The results indicate that fortifications date to at least 3 periods. These data provide a starting point for exploring the occurrence of warfare through time on a regional scale.
This paper pursues the application of a central tenet of the dual-processual framework, the corporate/network continuum, to the development of Uxbenká, a small monument-bearing polity in the southern Maya Lowlands. During its growth, Uxbenká underwent a transformation from a small farming community to a complex polity with many of the trappings of elite authority that characterizes Classic Maya centers. It was one of the earliest complex polities to develop on the southeastern periphery of the Maya lowlands during the Early Classic period (A.D. 300—600). The polity was founded upon earlier agricultural communities that are now known to extend back to at least A.D. 100. Starting after A.D. 200 the location of the original agricultural village (Group A) was leveled and reorganized to form a public monument garden and the center of political authority throughout much of the Classic period (A.D. 400—800). In this article we present radiocarbon ages from well-defined stratigraphic contexts to establish a site chronology. Based on these data we suggest that by A.D. 450 Uxbenká was the center of a regional political system connected to some of the larger polities in the Maya world (e.g., Tikal). We argue that at this time Uxbenká underwent a significant change from a polity organized by a corporate inclusionary form of ruler-ship to a more networked one marked by exclusionary authority vested in elites who privileged their ancestral relations and network interactions across the geopolitical landscape.
We establish a precision accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon chronology for the Archaic period Tlacuachero shellmound (Chiapas, Mexico) within a Bayesian statistical framework. Carbonized twig samples were sequentially selected from well-defined stratigraphic contexts based on iterative improvements to a probabilistic chronological model. Analytical error for these measurements is ±15 to 20 14C yr. This greater precision and the absence of stratigraphic reversals eclipses previous 14C work at the site. Based on this, we establish a chronological framework for a sequence of 3 clay floors dating to between 4930 and 4270 cal BP and determine that the bedded shell deposits that formed the mound accumulated rapidly during 2 episodes: a lower 2-m section below the floors that accumulated over a 0–150 cal yr period at 5050–4875 cal BP and, an upper 3.5-m section above the floors that accumulated over a 0–80 cal yr period at 4380–4230 cal BP.
We present the results of 10 AMS radiocarbon dates for Cova de la Pastora (Alcoi, Alicante), a burial cave attributed to the Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic in eastern Spain. The direct dating of 10 human mandibles from Cova de la Pastora indicates that the cave was used as a burial place from the Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic to the Bronze Age. These dates reveal a continuity of ritual use not previously identified at the site. This case also serves to highlight the utility of revisiting historic excavations and museum collections with modern techniques to shed new light on the prehistoric human record.