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Regional variation in the terminal Pleistocene and early Holocene radiocarbon record of eastern North America

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

D. Shane Miller*
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, 1009 East South Campus Drive, P.O. Box 210030, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA
Joseph A.M. Gingerich
Department of Anthropology (MRC-112), Paleoindian Program, NMNH Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20560, USA
*Corresponding author. E-mail (D.S. Miller), (J.A.M. Gingerich).


In this paper we use radiocarbon dates to evaluate the signature of the Younger Dryas Chronozone (YDC) in eastern North America. Using an approach that examines radiocarbon dates by region, we argue that the northeastern United States shows a better overall representation of radiocarbon dates when compared to the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast. These data result in a peak in summed probability distributions during the YDC, which is often interpreted as evidence of population growth. Further examination of these distributions, however, illustrates that differential standard deviations, varying sample size, and the effect of taphonomic and research biases likely overwhelm any demographic signatures in our study sample. Consequently, the frequency of radiocarbon dates by itself is insufficient for understanding the relationship between climate, culture and demography in eastern North America.

Research Article
University of Washington

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