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An Assessment of Marine Reservoir Corrections for Radiocarbon Dates on Walrus from the Foxe Basin Region of Arctic Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 June 2018

Arthur S Dyke
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Québec H3A 2T7, Canada Department of Earth Sciences, Dalhousie University, 1459 Oxford Street, PO BOX 15000, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2, Canada
James M Savelle
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Québec H3A 2T7, Canada
Paul Szpak
Department of Anthropology, Trent University, 1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough, Ontario K9L 0G2, Canada
John R Southon
Department of Earth Sciences, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA
Lesley Howse
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Québec H3A 2T7, Canada
Pierre M Desrosiers
Département de géographie, Université Laval, Pavillon Abitibi-Price, 2405 rue de la Terrasse, Université Laval, Québec G1V 0A6, Canada
Kathryn Kotar
Department of Anthropology, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Québec H3A 2T7, Canada
E-mail address:


Archaeological sites in the Canadian Arctic often contain substantial quantities of marine mammal bones and in some cases completely lack terrestrial mammal bones. A distrust of radiocarbon (14C) dates on marine mammal bones among Arctic archaeologists has caused many sites to be insufficiently dated. The goal of this study was to investigate the marine reservoir effect on Atlantic walrus in the Foxe Basin region of the Canadian Arctic through a two-pronged approach: dating of live-harvested specimens of known age collected prior to AD 1955 and dating of pairs of animal remains (walrus and caribou) from stratigraphically contemporaneous levels within archaeological features. 14C dates on pre-bomb, live-harvested walrus indicate that a ΔR value of 160±50 yr be used in calibrating dates on walrus from this region. These results differed significantly from a similar set of pre-bomb mollusks, which argues against applying mollusk-based corrections to marine mammals. The results of comparative dating of caribou and walrus from archaeological features provided maximum estimates of reservoir ages that were more varied than the directly measured ages. Although about half of inferred ΔR values overlap the museum specimen results, the others indicate that the assumption of contemporaneity does not hold true.

Research Article
© 2018 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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