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Dietary offsets in radiocarbon dates are becoming increasingly interesting to researchers, not only because of their impact on the reliability of chronologies but also because of the possibilities for extracting further dietary information from the 14C data itself. This is the case with the cemeteries of the Cis-Baikal region being studied as part of the international Baikal-Hokkaido Archaeology Project set up to examine hunter-gatherer cultural dynamics in eastern Asia. Fortunately, to control for a freshwater reservoir offset, we were able to obtain a number of paired terrestrial herbivore and human material for 14C dating. This article tests the correspondence between stable isotope evidence and the offsets seen in 14C values and the implications for the analysis of the 14C measurements as “chronometric dates.” This is an unusually well-documented example of freshwater reservoir offsets, providing an ideal case study to test different approaches to analyzing such offset information. Here, a purely Bayesian approach is compared with the more frequently applied linear regression analysis.
Thirty-three paired accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dates on human and terrestrial faunal remains from the same Neolithic and Early Bronze Age graves are used to develop a correction for the freshwater reservoir effect (FRE) at Lake Baikal, Siberia. Excluding two outliers, stable nitrogen isotope (δ15N) values show a positive correlation (r2 = 0.672, p < 0.000) with offsets in 14C yr between paired human and fauna determinations. The highest offset observed in our data set is 622 yr, which is close to the value of ∼700 yr suggested for endemic seals in the lake. For each per mil increase in δ15N, the offset increases by 77 ± 10 yr in the overall data set. However, there are indications that different regression models apply in each of two microregions of Cis-Baikal. In the first, sites on the southwest shore of the lake and along the Angara River show a strong positive correlation between δ15N values and offsets in 14C yr (r2 = 0.814, p < 0.000). In the other, the Little Sea, both δ13C and δ15N values make significant contributions to the model (adjusted r2 = 0.878; δ13C p < 0.001; δ15N p < 0.000). This can be related to the complex 13C ecology of the lake, which displays one of the widest ranges of δ13C values known for any natural ecosystem. The results will be important in terms of refining the culture-history of the region, as well as exploring the dynamic interactions of hunter-gatherer communities both synchronically and diachronically.
Extensive radiocarbon dating of human remains from Neolithic and Bronze Age hunter-gatherer cemeteries in the Cis-Baikal region of Siberia has been undertaken as a part of the multidisciplinary examination of this material conducted by the Baikal Archaeology Project (BAP; http://baikal.arts.ualberta.ca). Due to the large number of analyzed samples, this paper reports the 14C results only in the context of the basic archaeological information about each of the cemeteries. Comprehensive evaluation, analysis, and interpretation of this entire data set will be undertaken in separate publications. In fact, the dates for one such cemetery have already been examined on 2 recent occasions (Weber et al. 2004, 2005).
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