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The history of maize in Central America and surrounding areas has implications for the slow transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture. The spread of early forms of domesticated maize from southern Mexico across Mesoamerica and into South America has been dated to about 8,700–6,500 years ago on the basis of a handful of studies relying primarily on the analysis of pollen, phytoliths, or starch grains. Recent genomic data from southern Belize have been used to identify Archaic period south-to-north population movements from lower Central America, suggesting this migration pattern as a mechanism that introduced genetically improved maize races from South America. Gradually, maize productivity increased to the point that it was suitable for use as a staple crop. Here we present a summary of paleoecological data that support the late and uneven entry of maize into the Maya area relative to other regions of Central America and identify the Pacific coastal margin as the probable route by which maize spread southward into Panama and South America. We consider some implications of the early appearance of maize for Late Archaic populations in these areas; for example, with respect to the establishment of sedentary village life.
This study provides an assessment of the temporal changes in ΔR, which is the local deviation from the global surface water marine reservoir effect (MRE), in the Point Barrow area of the Alaskan Arctic, a coastal archaeological area that has experienced severe erosion accelerated by global warming. A total of 26 samples were submitted for radiocarbon (14C) dating from eight secure Thule (AD 1000–1750) archaeological contexts, and specifically from archaeological features with paired processed seal and caribou bones that had been frozen in situ. This new approach towards ΔR estimation provides a best-fit local correction for the 14C dating of human populations by focusing on the marine mammal (seals) predominantly consumed by the Thule (Coltrain et al. 2016). The weighted-mean ΔR value on these pairs is 450 ± 84 yr, which is about 50 years less than the weighted-mean (506 ± 69 yr) for the Point Barrow area calculated through 14C measurements from four known-age bivalves collected in AD 1913 (McNeely et al. 2006). The effects of using this new ΔR value for calibration was assessed through the Bayesian chronological modeling of 54 14C measurements from samples of human skeletons interred in the Nuvuk cemetery at Point Barrow, the largest ancient cemetery in northwest Alaska and traditionally thought to date to the Thule and earlier Birnirk (AD 500–1000) periods.
This article presents the results of a program of radiocarbon dating and Bayesian modeling from the precontact Yup'ik site of Nunalleq (GDN-248) in subarctic southwestern Alaska. Nunalleq is deeply stratified, presenting a robust relative chronological framework of well-defined individual house floors abundant in ecofacts suitable for radiocarbon dating. Capitalizing on this potential, we present the results of one of the first applications of Bayesian statistical modeling of radiocarbon data from an archaeological site in the North American Arctic. Using these methods, we demonstrate that it is possible to generate robust, high-resolution chronological models from Arctic archaeology. Radiocarbon dates, procured prior to the program of dating and modeling presented here, suggested an approximately three-century duration of occupation at the site. The results of Bayesian modeling nuance this interpretation. While it is possible that there may have been activity for almost three centuries (beginning in the late fourteenth century), occupation of the dwelling complex, which dominates the site, was more likely to have endured for no more than a century. The results presented here suggest that the occupation of Nunalleq likely encompassed three generations beginning cal AD 1570–1630 before being curtailed by conflict around cal AD 1645–1675.
We review the history of Bayesian chronological modeling in archaeology and demonstrate that there has been a surge over the past several years in American archaeological applications. Most of these applications have been performed by archaeologists who are self-taught in this method because formal training opportunities in Bayesian chronological modeling are infrequently provided. We define and address misconceptions about Bayesian chronological modeling that we have encountered in conversations with colleagues and in anonymous reviews, some of which have been expressed in the published literature. Objectivity and scientific rigor is inherent in the Bayesian chronological modeling process. Each stage of this process is described in detail, and we present examples of this process in practice. Our concluding discussion focuses on the potential that Bayesian chronological modeling has for enhancing understandings of important topics.
Since 1998 archaeological investigations on Holme-next-the-Sea beach have recorded the waterlogged remains of two Bronze Age timber circles, timber structures, coppiced trees, metal objects, and salt- and freshwater marshes. The second timber circle (Holme II) is only the third waterlogged structure of its type to be discovered in Britain and only the second to be dated by dendrochronology. The felling of timbers used in Holme II has been dated to the spring or summer of 2049 bc, exactly the time as the felling of the timbers used to build the first circle (Holme I). This shared date provides the only known example of two adjacent monuments constructed at precisely the same time in British prehistory. It also informs comparisons between Holme II and other British timber circles and therefore helps develop interpretations. This paper suggests Holme II was a mortuary monument directly related to the use of Holme I.
Previous stable isotope studies of modern and archaeological faunal samples from sites around Lake Mývatn, within the Mývatnssveit region of northeast Iceland, revealed that an overlap existed between the δ15N ranges of terrestrial herbivores and freshwater fish, while freshwater biota displayed δ13C values that were comparable with marine resources. Therefore, within this specific ecosystem, the separation of terrestrial herbivores, freshwater fish, and marine fish as components of human diet is complicated when only δ13C and δ15N are measured. δ34S measurements carried out within a previous study on animal bones from Skútustaoir, an early Viking age settlement on the south side of Lake Mývatn, showed that a clear offset existed between animals deriving their dietary resources from terrestrial, freshwater, and marine reservoirs. The present study focuses on δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S analyses and radiocarbon dating of human bone collagen from remains excavated from a churchyard at Hofstaoir, 5 km west of Lake Mývatn. The results demonstrate that a wide range of δ34S values exist within individuals, a pattern that must be the result of consumption of varying proportions of terrestrial-, freshwater-, and marine-based resources. For that proportion of the population with 14C ages that apparently predate the well-established first human settlement of Iceland (landnám) circa AD 871 ± 2, this has enabled us to explain the reason for these anomalously old ages in terms of marine and/or freshwater 14C reservoir effects.
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