UZH-Logo

Radiocarbon dates and the earliest colonization of East Polynesia: more than a case study


Della Casa, Philippe (2009). Radiocarbon dates and the earliest colonization of East Polynesia: more than a case study. Radiocarbon, 51(2):681-693.

Abstract

Over the last 30 yr, there has been an ongoing debate on the dates and modes of the earliest colonization of
East Polynesia, namely the Cook Islands, the 5 archipelagos of French Polynesia, the Hawai’i Islands, Easter Island, and New Zealand. At least 3 alternative models were proposed by Sinoto, Anderson, Kirch, and Conte, but interestingly all these models basically relied on the same set of roughly 200 radiocarbon dates on various organic materials from archaeological excavations as far back as the 1950s. Some of the models differed by 500–1000 yr—for a proposed initial colonization around the turn of the BC/AD eras, if not considerably later. By comparing the different approaches to this chronological issue, it becomes evident that almost all known problems in dealing with 14C dates from archaeological excavations are involved: stratigraphy and exact location of samples, sample material and quality, inbuilt ages and reservoir effects, lab errors in ancient
dates, etc. More recently, research into landscape and vegetation history has produced alternative 14C dating for early human impact, adding to the confusion about the initial stages of island colonization, while archaeological 14C dates, becoming increasingly “young” as compared to former investigations, now advocate a rapid and late (post-AD 900) colonization of the archipelagos. As it appears, the Polynesian case is more than just another case study, it’s a lesson on 14C-based archaeological chronology. The present paper does not pretend to solve the problems of early Polynesian colonization, but intends to contribute to the debate on how 14C specialists and archaeologists might cooperate in the future.

Over the last 30 yr, there has been an ongoing debate on the dates and modes of the earliest colonization of
East Polynesia, namely the Cook Islands, the 5 archipelagos of French Polynesia, the Hawai’i Islands, Easter Island, and New Zealand. At least 3 alternative models were proposed by Sinoto, Anderson, Kirch, and Conte, but interestingly all these models basically relied on the same set of roughly 200 radiocarbon dates on various organic materials from archaeological excavations as far back as the 1950s. Some of the models differed by 500–1000 yr—for a proposed initial colonization around the turn of the BC/AD eras, if not considerably later. By comparing the different approaches to this chronological issue, it becomes evident that almost all known problems in dealing with 14C dates from archaeological excavations are involved: stratigraphy and exact location of samples, sample material and quality, inbuilt ages and reservoir effects, lab errors in ancient
dates, etc. More recently, research into landscape and vegetation history has produced alternative 14C dating for early human impact, adding to the confusion about the initial stages of island colonization, while archaeological 14C dates, becoming increasingly “young” as compared to former investigations, now advocate a rapid and late (post-AD 900) colonization of the archipelagos. As it appears, the Polynesian case is more than just another case study, it’s a lesson on 14C-based archaeological chronology. The present paper does not pretend to solve the problems of early Polynesian colonization, but intends to contribute to the debate on how 14C specialists and archaeologists might cooperate in the future.

Citations

Downloads

5 downloads since deposited on 20 Nov 2009
0 downloads since 12 months
Detailed statistics

Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, not refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Archaeology
Dewey Decimal Classification:900 History
Language:English
Date:2009
Deposited On:20 Nov 2009 13:40
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 13:33
Publisher:University of Arizona
ISSN:0033-8222
Official URL:http://digitalcommons.library.arizona.edu/holdings/journal/issue?r=http://radiocarbon.library.arizona.edu/Volume51/Number2/
Related URLs:http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&con_lng=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=000037753
http://digitalcommons.library.arizona.edu/holdings/journal?r=http://radiocarbon.library.arizona.edu/ (Publisher)
Permanent URL: http://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-24180

Download

[img]
Filetype: PDF - Registered users only
Size: 3MB

TrendTerms

TrendTerms displays relevant terms of the abstract of this publication and related documents on a map. The terms and their relations were extracted from ZORA using word statistics. Their timelines are taken from ZORA as well. The bubble size of a term is proportional to the number of documents where the term occurs. Red, orange, yellow and green colors are used for terms that occur in the current document; red indicates high interlinkedness of a term with other terms, orange, yellow and green decreasing interlinkedness. Blue is used for terms that have a relation with the terms in this document, but occur in other documents.
You can navigate and zoom the map. Mouse-hovering a term displays its timeline, clicking it yields the associated documents.

Author Collaborations