The University of Arizona
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The contribution of radiocarbon dating to New World archaeology.

R E Taylor


When introduced almost five decades ago, radiocarbon ( (super 14) C) dating provided New World archaeologists with a common chronometric scale that transcended the countless site-specific and regional schemes that had been developed by four generations of field researchers employing a wide array of criteria for distinguishing relative chronological phases. A topic of long standing interest in New World studies where (super 14) C values have played an especially critical role is the temporal framework for the initial peopling of the New World. Other important issues where (super 14) C results have been of particular importance include the origins and development of New World agriculture and the determination of the relationship between the western and Mayan calendars. It has been suggested that the great success of (super 14) C was an important factor in redirecting the focus of American archaeological scholarship in the 1960s from chronology building to theory building, led to a noticeable improvement in US archaeological field methods, and provided a major catalyst that moved American archaeologists increasingly to direct attention to analytical and statistical approaches in the manipulation and evaluation of archaeological data.


Western Hemisphere;agriculture;human activity;archaeology;Holocene;Cenozoic;Quaternary;geochronology;C 14;carbon;dates;isotopes;radioactive isotopes;absolute age

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