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Title: Scale of time-averaging in archaeological shell middens from the Canary Islands
Characterizing the degree of disturbance in archaeological deposits is critically important for archaeologists assessing foraging strategies, environmental conditions, or behavior patterns of ancient human groups. Qualitative techniques (e.g. micromorphology analysis) have previously been applied to assess the degree of disturbance (age-mixing) in archaeological sites; however, quantitative dating of material in the sites provides a more robust assessment of potential age-mixing. Unfortunately, because of budget constraints, archaeologists are frequently forced to rely on few quantitative age dates for an assemblage, thus obfuscating the signal of age-mixing of the deposit. The development of an affordable and rapid carbonate-target accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon ( 14 C) dating method provides a cost-effective way to retrieve more quantitative dates from carbonate material in archaeological assemblages to assess the degree of age-mixing in the deposit. This study tests this new technique and dates numerous harvested marine limpet shells from archaeological sites in the Canary Islands to determine whether there is multidecadal to multicentennial age-mixing. A total of 58 shells retrieved from six sites and three islands yielded uncalibrated radiocarbon ages ranging from 2265 ± 40 to 765 ± 35 BP, coinciding with the time of prehistoric human occupation in these islands. While most shells from more » the same stratum showed statistically equivalent ages, in some cases we detected age ranges that exceeded the imprecisions from analytical errors. This investigation is one of the first to quantitatively illustrate that shells retrieved from depth intervals without evident stratigraphic disturbance do not always contain contemporaneous remains and, therefore, dating each specimen is valuable for developing further paleoclimatic and paleoanthropological inferences. This study presents the first report of carbonate-target 14 C ages from archaeological shell middens, and suggests that this novel radiocarbon methodology can be applied to these sites, thus allowing the generation of a more comprehensive chronology. « less
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Award ID(s):
1803311 1802153
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
The Holocene
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
258 to 271
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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