Comparison of Radiometric Dating Techniques: Pacific Northwest


Radiometric dating is problematic in non-midden sites of the Pacific Northwest. Charcoal is ubiquitous in the forest soils and unburned bone readily dissolves. This fact impedes development of a regional chronologies and understanding of the process of resource intensification that was so important to development of Northwest cultures. To alleviate this deviciency, DirectAMS and Central Washington University undertook research to demonstrate the validity of alternatives to traditional radiocarbon dating of charcoal and bone, by using radiocarbon dating of calcined bone and luminescence dating. Calcined bone (bone burned in excess of 600°C) survives well in archaeological sites with acidic soils that are common to archaeological contexts along the Northwest Coast and has been found in the Old World to provide accurate radiocarbon dating. Luminescence dating can be applied to fire-cracked rock, which is common, particularly in food processing features. We developed a protocol for comparing calcined bone and luminescence dates with charcoal dates, taking all from the same features contexts. Results were compared for seven sites, demonstrating the validity of this approach to solving the region’s dating dilemma.

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Comparison of Radiometric Dating Techniques: Pacific Northwest. James Brown, James Chatters, Patrick McCutcheon, Jon Adler, James Feathers. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397878)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -169.717; min lat: 42.553 ; max long: -122.607; max lat: 71.301 ;