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

Fiona Brock, Joanna Ostapkowicz, Christopher Bronk Ramsey, Alex Wiedenhoeft, Caroline Cartwright

Abstract


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.

DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.v54i3–4.16160


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