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Paired Dating of Pith and Outer Edge (Terminus) Samples from Pre-Hispanic Caribbean Wooden Sculptures

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2016

Fiona Brock*
Affiliation:
Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, United Kingdom
Joanna Ostapkowicz
Affiliation:
World Museum Liverpool, William Brown Street, Liverpool L3 8EN, United Kingdom
Christopher Bronk Ramsey
Affiliation:
Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, Research Laboratory for Archaeology & the History of Art, University of Oxford, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, United Kingdom
Alex Wiedenhoeft
Affiliation:
Center for Wood Anatomy Research, Forest Products Laboratory, USDA Forest Services, One Gifford Pinchot Drive, Madison, Wisconsin 53726-2398, USA
Caroline Cartwright
Affiliation:
Scientific Research Laboratory, British Museum, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom
*
Corresponding author. Email: Fiona.brock@rlaha.ox.ac.uk
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Abstract

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Radiocarbon dating of historical and archaeological wood can be complicated, sometimes involving issues of “inbuilt” age in slow-growing woods, and/or the possibility of reuse or long delays between felling and use of the wood. Terminus dates can be provided by dating the sapwood, or the outermost edge of heartwood, while a date from the pith can give an indication of the first years of growth. A sequence of samples from specific points within the bole can be used to determine the growth rate of the tree. Such a combined dating strategy is particularly useful in cross-referencing dates from a single piece, better placing it in its chronological context. This paper reports paired or multiple dates from 11 wooden sculptures dated as part of the Pre-Hispanic Caribbean Sculptural Arts in Wood project, which studied 66 wooden artifacts attributed to the pre-colonial Taíno, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean's Greater Antilles. The calibrated ages of the pieces published here range from ∼AD 700–1500, indicating that the Taíno were producing elaborate sculptures much earlier than previously thought. The paired or multiple dates from these carvings confirmed the accuracy of the results, and were also used to construct a growth rate model of what was expected to be a slow-growing species (Guaiacum sp.). This model demonstrates that the boles used to create the sculptures grew on average 1 cm every 6–13 yr.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by the Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the University of Arizona 

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