, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 69-80
Date: 16 Nov 2012

High-resolution radiocarbon dating of marine materials in archaeological contexts: radiocarbon marine reservoir variability between Anadara, Gafrarium, Batissa, Polymesoda spp. and Echinoidea at Caution Bay, Southern Coastal Papua New Guinea

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The remains of shellfish dominate many coastal archaeological sites in the Pacific and provide a wealth of information about economy, culture, environment and climate. Shells are therefore the logical sample type to develop local and regional radiocarbon chronologies. The calibration of radiocarbon (14C) dates on marine animals is not straightforward, however, requiring an understanding of habitat and dietary preferences as well as detailed knowledge of local ocean conditions. The most complex situations occur where terrestrial influences impinge on the marine environment resulting in both the enrichment and depletion of 14C (Ulm Geoarchaeology 17(4):319–348, 2002; Petchey and Clark Quat Geochronol 6:539–549, 2011). A sampling protocol that combines a high-resolution excavation methodology, selection of short-lived samples identified to species level, and a tri-isotope approach using 14C, δ13C and δ18O, has given us the ability to identify 14C source variation that would otherwise have been obscured. Here, we present new research that details high-resolution mapping of marine 14C reservoir variation between Gafrarium tumidum, Gafrarium pectinatum, Anadara granosa, Anadara antiquata, Batissa violacea, Polymesoda erosa and Echinoidea from the Bogi 1 archaeological site, Caution Bay, southern coastal Papua New Guinea. These isotopes highlight specific dietary, habitat and behavioural variations that are key to obtaining chronological information from shell radiocarbon determinations.