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Modeling Freshwater Reservoir Offsets on Radiocarbon-Dated Charred Cooking Residues

TitleModeling Freshwater Reservoir Offsets on Radiocarbon-Dated Charred Cooking Residues
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsHart, JP, Lovis, WA, Urquhart, GR, Reber, EA
JournalAmerican Antiquity
Keywordscooking residues, Freshwater Reservoir Effect, northeastern North America, radiocarbon dating

Obtaining radiocarbon assays on objects of chronological interest is always preferable to obtaining assays on spatially associated charcoal. The development of Accelerator Mass Spectrometer (AMS) dating has expanded the number of objects that can be directly assayed because it requires only a few milligrams of material. Pottery can be directly assayed when charred cooking residues adhering to the interior walls are present. The accuracy of AMS ages derived from residues has been questioned in cases where cooking freshwater aquatic organisms may have introduced carbon from ancient carbon reservoirs into residues. Here we provide analytic protocols for examination of this phenomenon and the results of systematic modeling of age estimates on residues formed from fish and maize with varying percentages of dead carbon. We present a regional case study using a large series of AMS age estimates on residues from the Finger Lakes region of northeastern United States to demonstrate how the paleolimnological record and lipid analysis of residues can help to determine if dates on residues from a given region are likely to have been affected by the presence of ancient carbon. In the case of the Finger Lakes, there is no evidence that ancient carbon affected the age estimates.