The University of Arizona

The Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database (CARD): Archaeological 14C Dates in North America and Their Paleoenvironmental Context

K Gajewski, S Munoz, M Peros, A Viau, R Morlan, M Betts

Abstract


Databases of accumulated paleoecological and archaeological records provide a means for large-scale syntheses of environmental and cultural histories. We describe the current status of the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database (CARD), a searchable collection of more than 36,000 14C dates from archaeological and paleontological sites from across North America. CARD, built by the late Dr Richard Morlan of the Canadian Museum of Civilization, consists of uncalibrated 14C data as well as information about the material dated, the cultural association of the date (e.g. Paleoindian, Archaic, Woodland), and its geographic location. The database can be used to study questions relating to prehistoric demography, migrations, human vulnerability to environmental change, and human impact on the landscape, but biases relating to sampling intensity and taphonomy must first be accounted for. Currently, Canada and the northern United States are well represented in the database, while the southern United States is underrepresented. The frequency of 14C dates associated with archaeological sites increases through time from 15,000 cal yr BP until European contact, which likely reflects, among other factors, both the destruction of older cultural carbon due to erosion and dissolution and increasing population numbers through time. An exploratory analysis of the dates reveals their distribution in both time and space, and suggests that the database is sufficiently complete to enable quantitative analysis of general demographic trends.

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