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Protecting Our Fossil Fuel: Bone Dates, Date-Assessment Protocols, and the Need for a Worldwide 14C Database

Author(s): James Oliver ; Russell Graham ; Thomas Stafford, Jr.

Year: 2017

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Large datasets of bone 14C dates are the foundation of integrative research in Late Quaternary faunal paleoecology, biogeography, paleogenetics, responses to environmental change, extinction occurrences and rates, and roles of climate and humans in the extinction process. This research requires strict date-assessment protocols including knowledge of material dated, taxon, sample chemistry, fraction dated, isotopic and C/N values. Currently, however, using 50+ years of 14C dates and implementing date-assessment protocols is difficult because a) the number of dates produced by different methodologies and technologies is large and have variable accuracy probabilities, b) date records are scattered in a plethora of publications and reports, and c) dating methods and sample characteristics remain poorly reported. Additionally, data are difficult to obtain from labs because of a) privacy agreements, b) incomplete record keeping, and c) record loss as labs close. We illustrate these difficulties and the urgent need for a 14C database and by a) noting variability in age estimates resulting from different dating methods, b) a brief critique of recent megafauna extinction research, and c) radiocarbon lab responses to information requests associated with this critique. Without a worldwide 14C database, integrative research, strict date-assessment criteria, and proper evaluation of interpretations are nearly impossible.

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Protecting Our Fossil Fuel: Bone Dates, Date-Assessment Protocols, and the Need for a Worldwide 14C Database. James Oliver, Russell Graham, Thomas Stafford, Jr.. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 429445)


Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16129

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America