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Accelerator Mass Spectrometry 14C Dating and the Antiquity of Shell-Tempered Ceramics from the Chesapeake Bay and Middle Atlantic

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Torben C. Rick
Program in Human Ecology and Archaeobiology, Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012 (
Darrin L. Lowery
Chesapeake Watershed Archaeological Research Foundation, 8949 High Banks Dr., Easton, MD 21601 (


Ceramics typologies have long been used to build artifact, site, and regional chronologies. Direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) 14C dating of shell-tempered ceramics offers a promising tool for updating and improving these chronologies. Few studies have 14C dated shell fragments from shell-tempered pottery, however, and questions remain about potential biases from “old shell,” the reservoir effect, and other variables. Forty-five direct AMS 14C assays on shell-tempered pottery and associated shell, charcoal, and bone from nine archaeological sites in Virginia and Maryland provide a framework to test this method. AMS 14C assays from one site may have problems with old shell, but most of the calibrated direct and associated age estimates overlap. One of our samples is the oldest securely dated shell-tempered pottery in North America at ~1000 cal B.C. Our study demonstrates the promise of AMS 14C dating shell-tempered pottery for refining ceramic and regional chronologies in coastal and other areas around the world.



Las tipologías de la cerámica han sido utilizadas para establecer cronologías sobre artefactos, sitios y regiones. El uso de la espectrometría de acelerador directo 14C(AMS) para la datación de cerámica con desgrasante de concha puede ser una herramienta que promete avances en la actualización y mejoramiento de dichas cronologías. Sin embargo, ha habido pocos estudios en los cuáles se establece la datación de fragmentos de cerámica con desgrasante de concha por medio del 14C porque permanecen las dudas sobre la alteración de datos a causa del efecto de “conchas antiguas,” el efecto de reserva, y otros problemas relacionados con la datación exacta del carbono 14. Aquí se presentan los resultados de cuarenta y cinco fechas obtenietas por medio de la aplicación del AMS 14C en cerámica de desgrasante de concha y otras conchas similares así como de carbón y hueso procedentes de nueve zonas arqueológicas en Virginia y Maryland para poner a prueba el método en cuestión. Las fechas AMS 14C nos indica que, mientras que un sitio puede exhibir problemas del efecto de “concha vieja,” la mayoría de las fechas calibradas directamente y las fechas asociadas coinciden. Una de nuestras muestras representa la muestra más antigua de cerámica de desgrasante de concha con fechas seguras en Norte América, cuya fecha data de ~1000 cal a.C. Nuestro estudio demuestra el potencial en la aplicación del método AMS 14C para datar cerámica de desgrasante de concha para refinar las cronologías de la cerámica al nivel regional en las zonas costeras como en otras partes del mundo.

Copyright © 2013 by the Society for American Archaeology.

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