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Radiocarbon Dating in Eastern Arctic Archaeology: A Flexible Approach

  • Wendy Hanford Arundale (a1)

Abstract

Radiocarbon dates from marine mammal tissue present Arctic archaeologists with some difficult interpretive problems. These problems are so serious that McGhee and Tuck have even advocated omitting all sea mammal dates from the Eastern Arctic radiocarbon chronology. A flexible approach to interpreting sea mammal dates will allow researchers to use existing dates more effectively and to make future dates more reliable. Solving the problems with sea mammal dates requires: (1) abandoning the assumption that radiocarbon assays are quasi-absolute chronological indicators; (2) recognizing and understanding the sources of variability that affect these dates; (3) correcting for these sources of variability; and (4) developing a more flexible strategy for interpreting the resulting date sequence. A large table of radiocarbon dates from the Eastern Arctic provides the basis for demonstrating how these four steps can be accomplished. Applying this flexible approach also suggests directions and guidelines for future research.

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American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 0002-7316
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