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In many locations around the world, shell radiocarbon dates underpin archaeological research. The dating of shell brings the chronological relationship between the sample and target event (e.g., hunting and food preparation) into congruence, while shells are valuable geochemical proxies for understanding past climate dynamics and environments. However, this information can be lost as the shell, composites of biopolymers and carbonate minerals (mostly calcite and or aragonite), undergo diagenetic alteration. While studies into Pleistocene-age carbonates are common in the radiocarbon literature, there has been little research into the impact of alteration on Holocene-age shells used to interpret recent societal developments. The limits of our understanding of these diagenetic changes became evident when dating Placuna placenta (naturally calcitic) and Tegillarca granosa (naturally aragonitic) shells from the site of Thach Lac in Vietnam. These shells returned ages significantly younger than associated charcoal and terrestrial bone at the site, but standard tests for secondary recrystallization (XRD and staining techniques) did not indicate any alteration. Further investigation revealed that cryptic recrystallization (i.e., of the same crystal structure) had occurred in both the calcite and aragonite shells. This finding suggests recrystallization may have an undetected impact on some shell radiocarbon dates.
This paper is a response to criticism by Carson (2020) concerning the age of the Unai Bapot archaeological site in the Mariana Islands. Of specific contention are supposed errors in the marine radiocarbon (14C) research reported by Petchey et al. (2017). According to Carson, this work produced marine reservoir offsets (ΔR) of “suspiciously wide variance from each other … and those results were incompatible with the site’s reported stratigraphy and dating (Carson 2008) as well as with other previously calculated marine reservoir corrections in the Mariana Islands (Carson 2010: 3).” This statement is misleading on all three points. Our reply discusses the problems encountered when dating shells from near-shore “marine” environments where terrestrial input, in particular hard water, may complicate date interpretation. We outline a cautionary tale relevant to any researcher using “marine” shell dates to develop regional archaeological chronologies in regions dominated by limestone.
Early researchers of radiocarbon levels in Southern Hemisphere tree rings identified a variable North-South hemispheric offset, necessitating construction of a separate radiocarbon calibration curve for the South. We present here SHCal20, a revised calibration curve from 0–55,000 cal BP, based upon SHCal13 and fortified by the addition of 14 new tree-ring data sets in the 2140–0, 3520–3453, 3608–3590 and 13,140–11,375 cal BP time intervals. We detail the statistical approaches used for curve construction and present recommendations for the use of the Northern Hemisphere curve (IntCal20), the Southern Hemisphere curve (SHCal20) and suggest where application of an equal mixture of the curves might be more appropriate. Using our Bayesian spline with errors-in-variables methodology, and based upon a comparison of Southern Hemisphere tree-ring data compared with contemporaneous Northern Hemisphere data, we estimate the mean Southern Hemisphere offset to be 36 ± 27 14C yrs older.
Holocene climate change in the South Pacific is of major interest to archaeologists and Quaternary researchers. Regional surface ocean radiocarbon (14C) values are an established proxy for studying changing oceanographic and climatic conditions. Unfortunately, radiocarbon variability in the marine environment over the period of specific importance to human colonization of the remote Pacific islands—the last 3500 years—has been poorly studied. In order to build robust and accurate archaeological chronologies using shell, it is important to rectify this. In this paper, radiocarbon marine reservoir offsets (ΔR) are presented from eight archaeological sites, ranging in age from 350 cal BP to 3000 cal BP, and compared to coral datasets from the east Australian coastline. The results indicate that a significant decrease in the South Pacific Gyre ΔR occurred between 2600 and 2250 cal BP, most likely caused by changes in ocean circulation and climate. Accurately recording the timing of variability in reservoir offset is critical to untangling changes in society that took place in the Pacific, in particular, the development of Ancestral Polynesian Society.
The study of the Bom Santo Cave (central Portugal), a Neolithic cemetery, indicates a complex social, palaeoeconomic, and population scenario. With isotope, aDNA, and provenance analyses of raw materials coupled with stylistic variability of material culture items and palaeogeographical data, light is shed on the territory and social organization of a population dated to 3800–3400 cal BC, i.e. the Middle Neolithic. Results indicate an itinerant farming, segmentary society, where exogamic practices were the norm. Its lifeway may be that of the earliest megalithic builders of the region, but further research is needed to correctly evaluate the degree of this community's participation in such a phenomenon.
The Lapita expansion took Austronesian seafaring peoples with distinctive pottery eastward from the Bismarck Archipelago to western Polynesia during the late second millennium BC, marking the first stage in the settlement of Oceania. Here it is shown that a parallel process also carried Lapita pottery and people many hundreds of kilometres westward along the southern shore of Papua New Guinea. The key site is Hopo, now 4.5km inland owing to the progradation of coastal sand dunes, but originally on the sea edge. Pottery and radiocarbon dates indicate Lapita settlement in this location c. 600 BC, and suggest that the long-distance maritime networks linking the entire southern coast of Papua New Guinea in historical times may trace their origin to this period.
The grinding of stone to make sharp cutting edges did not evolve with the emergence of biologically modern humans in Africa, but late in the Pleistocene at the completion or nearcompletion of the Out-of-Africa 2 migration. Here we discuss the earliest securely-dated fragment of ground-edge axe from Australia, dated at 35,500 cal. bp, an age slightly older or comparable to the earliest ages for edge-grinding from the Pacific Ocean's western seaboard. In this region ground-edge axes did not evolve with the emergence of agriculture, nor for the clearance of forests, but, rather, as socially mediated technology, part of the development of symbolic storage that is the hallmark of the evolution of cognitively modern humans at the geographical end, during, or following, Out-of-Africa 2.
Herbivorous and deposit-feeding gastropods are a major component of archaeological shell middens worldwide. They provide a wealth of information about subsistence, economy, environment, and climate, but are generally considered to be less than ideal for radiocarbon dating because they can ingest sediment while they graze, inadvertently consuming terrestrial carbon in the process. However, few studies of 14C activity in herbivores or deposit-feeding gastropods have been conducted into this diverse range of animals that inhabit many environmental niches. Here, we present results investigating 14C variability in shells belonging to the families Strombidae and Potamididae from the Bogi 1 archaeological site, Caution Bay, southern coastal Papua New Guinea (PNG). These shells make up 39.3% of the shell MNI in the excavation units studied and some of these species are the most common taxa of neighboring sites. It would therefore be advantageous to establish if there are any 14C offsets associated with such animals, and identify those that can give reliable calendar ages. Our methodology combines a high-resolution excavation protocol, selection of short-lived samples identified to species level, and a triisotope approach using 14C, δ13C, and δ18O to evaluate the source of variability in shells. Our results indicate that considerable variation exists between different species of Strombidae with some inhabiting muddier environments that act as sinks for limestone-derived sediments with depleted 14C content. The magnitude of variation is, however, overshadowed by that measured in the mudwhelk, Cerithidea largillierti, which has the largest spread in 14C of any shellfish studied so far at Caution Bay. This animal ingests sediment within the estuary that contains 14C derived from both enriched and depleted sources.
Interactions between islands, ocean currents, and winds cause large-scale eddies and upwelling in the lee of islands that can result in spatial variation in the marine radiocarbon reservoir. For waters around New Ireland and the Bismarck Sea, ΔR values ranging from 365 to −320 14C yr have been reported (Kirch 2001; Petchey et al. 2004). Petchey et al. (2004) proposed that some of this variation was caused by seasonal reversals in the South Equatorial Current and North Equatorial Counter Current system, combined with Ekman upwelling from the Equator. McGregor et al. (2008) suggested additional complexity within this region caused by a change in the reservoir value over time in response to changing climatic conditions. We present a series of 14 new and extant published ΔR and R values on historic shells, combined with 8 values from archaeological terrestrial/marine pairs and U-Th dated coral, that support observations of localized variability caused by a complex interplay between seasonal currents, riverine input, and ocean eddies. On the basis of these values and oceanographic data, we divide the Bismarck Sea surface marine 14C reservoir into 6 tentative subregions. In particular, our results support significant variation within channels at the southwest and southeast ends of New Britain and towards the equatorial boundary of the sea. Our results indicate that within the Bismarck Sea geographical variation appears to be more extreme than temporal over the last 3000 yr.
This paper reports the first set of isotopic data relating to human diet from the Samoan Archipelago. Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope data measured on bone collagen were used to assess dietary patterns of prehistoric communities on Tutuila Island, American Samoa. We examined 14 human bones from three sites dated to three distinct periods: ~1,000 years ago (N = 5); -500 years ago (N = 8) and -150 years ago (N = 1). The isotopie data suggest that the human diet on Tutuila over the last 1,000 years was composed mainly of terrestrial resources with some consumption of coastal reef products. These data suggest a possible dietary change over time, with a higher dependence on marine resources in the earlier period shifting to a more terrestrial diet in the later period. Several possibilities for this dietary shift are suggested including: change in community specialization; marine resource depression; disintensification of marine procurement; intensification of horticultural production; and cultural or social changes in resource allocation.
This paper presents 31 new ΔR results of known-age, pre-AD 1950 shells from the South Pacific subtropical gyre region, spanning from the Tuamotu Archipelago in the east to New Caledonia in the west. This doubles the number of available ΔR values for the Oceania region. These values indicate that the regional offset (ΔR) from the modeled radiocarbon marine age has remained relatively constant over the last 100 yr prior to 1950. Variation from the norm can be attributed to various influences including localized upwelling around islands, the presence of a hardwater effect, direct ingestion of old carbon by the live shellfish, or enhanced exchange with atmospheric CO2 as a consequence of photosynthetic activity or increased aeration.
It is necessary to calculate location-specific marine ΔR values in order to calibrate marine samples using calibration curves such as those provided through the IntCal98 (Stuiver et al. 1998) data. Where known-age samples are available, this calculation is straightforward (i.e. Stuiver et al. 1986). In the case that a paired marine/terrestrial sample calculation is performed, however, the standard calculation (i.e. Stuiver and Braziunas 1993) requires that the samples are treated as relating to isochronous events. This may not be an appropriate assumption for many archaeological paired samples. In this paper, we present an approach to calculating marine ΔR values that does not require the dated events to be treated as isochronous. When archaeological evidence allows the dated events to be tightly temporally constrained, the approach presented here and that described by Stuiver and Braziunas (1993) give very similar results. However, where tight temporal constraints are less certain, the 2 approaches can give rise to differing results. The example analysis considered here shows that a ΔR of −81 ± 64 14C yr is appropriate for samples in the vicinity of Nenumbo (Reef Islands, southeast Solomon Islands) around the period 2000–3000 BP.
The soils of the Seabee Hook area of Cape Hallett in northern Victoria Land, Antarctica, were mapped and characterized. Seabee Hook is a low-lying gravel spit of beach deposits built up by coastal currents carrying basalt material from nearby cliffs. Seabee Hook is the location of an Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) colony which influences the soils with additions of guano, dead birds, eggshells and feathers. A soil-landscape model was developed and a soil association was identified between the soils formed on mounds (relict beach ridges) favoured by penguins for nests (Typic Haplorthel) and the soils in the areas between the mounds (Typic Haplorthel/Typic Aquorthel). Soils formed on the mounds inhabited by penguins contained guano in the upper 50 cm, overlying sub-rounded beach-deposited gravel and sand. Soils between mounds had a thin veneer (< 5 cm) of guano overlying basaltic gravelly sand similar to that in the lower parts of the mound soils. The soils had high concentrations of nitrogen, organic carbon, phosphorus, cadmium, zinc, copper, and increased electrical conductivity, within horizons influenced by penguin guano. Five buried penguin bones were collected from the base of soil profiles and radiocarbon dated. The dates indicate that Seabee Hook has been colonized by penguins for at least 1000 years.
In archaeological dating, the greatest confidence is usually placed upon radiocarbon results of material that can be directly related to a defined archaeological event. Human bone should fulfill this requirement, but bone dates obtained from Pacific sites are often perceived as problematic due to the incorporation of 14C from a range of different reservoirs into the collagen via diet. In this paper, we present new human bone gelatin results for 2 burials from the SAC archaeological site on Watom Island, Papua New Guinea, and investigate the success of calibrating these determinations using dietary corrections obtained from δ34S, δ15N, and δ13C isotopes.
ΔR results of known-age shells from the Solomon and Coral Seas and the northwest coast of New Ireland are presented. The results are too few to be conclusive but indicate that ΔR in this region is variable. An average ΔR value of 370 ± 25 yr is recorded for a range of shell species from Kavieng Harbor, New Ireland, and is primarily attributed to weak equatorial upwelling of depleted 14C due to seasonal current reversals. In contrast, values from the Solomon and Coral Seas are lower (average ΔR = 45 ± 19 yr). Higher ΔR values for some shellfish from these 2 seas is attributed to ingestion of 14C-depleted sediment by deposit-feeding species.
The Mulifanua ferry berth has the distinction of being the only site in Samoa with dentate-stamped Lapita wares, and is the most easterly Lapita site in the Pacific. Two new radiocarbon determinations of material associated with Lapita pottery found at Mulifanua are presented. The accuracy of this data is evaluated according to the results of recent reassessment of pottery from the site, and current theories regarding the age of Lapita settlement in the eastern Pacific. The resulting calibrated radiocarbon ages put occupation of the Mulifanua Lapita site at around 2880–2750 cal BP (930–800 BC). This conclusion is in agreement with the pottery chronology and supports recent hypotheses of rapid Lapita settlement in the Fiji/Tonga region around 2850–2700 cal BP (900–750 BC).
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