Radiocarbon Calibration and Late Glacial Occupation in Northwest Europe

By Blockley, S. P. E.; Donahue, R. E. et al. | Antiquity, March 2000 | Go to article overview

Radiocarbon Calibration and Late Glacial Occupation in Northwest Europe


Blockley, S. P. E., Donahue, R. E., Pollard, A. M., Antiquity


Various methods of analysing the dating of the late Glacial suggest various interpretations. Here, in answer to a paper from 1997, radiocarbon dates are calibrated and used to reconsider the dating of this contentious period.

Key-words: northwest Europe, Late Glacial, radiocarbon calibration, population movement, climatic fluctuation

Introduction

In a recent paper Housley et al. (1997) presented 127 AMS and 14 conventional radiocarbon estimates from Magdalenian, Hamburgian and Creswellian contexts, in eight areas of Europe (FIGURE 1a). The dates were predominantly on bone, most of which had been humanly-modified. Using these dates they attempted to model movements of people in Europe during the last deglaciation. They argued that much of northwest Europe was abandoned around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum, with populations dwelling in refugia. They proposed a re-colonization of northwestern Europe constrained by the retreat of the ice, and outlined a chronological sequence for this process. A `moving sum' was used to count the dates (Housley et al. 1997: 44). They assumed that this method implicitly accounted for the 1 sigma errors on the uncalibrated dates (since the `bin width' was chosen to be roughly the same as the average 1[Sigma] error), and therefore allowed the treatment of the data as point estimates. The method produced a series of histograms (FIGURE 1a) for the areas of Europe, which were interpreted as supporting a model of population movement. The earliest occupied `bin' on each histogram was taken as identifying the initiation of colonization (`pioneer phase'); the mode of the histogram was interpreted as a `residential phase', when populations were fully established.

[FIGURE 1a ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

There are, however, some difficulties with this approach, centring around two key areas. Firstly, it may be argued that whilst the moving-sum method may take into account the 1[Sigma] errors on the uncalibrated dates, it does not account for errors at 2[Sigma] (required for 95% confidence). A second difficulty is that it is totally based on uncalibrated radiocarbon dates. Because the [.sup.14]C timescale is incorrect and nonlinear, the true chronological relationships between dates and between groups of dates are not known. It is therefore not possible to use uncalibrated [.sup.14]C age estimates as a linear relative chronology. In this case apparent chronological differences between groups of uncalibrated dates from European regions are used incorrectly to imply population movement (Housley et al. 1997: 43).Thirdly, the definition of the geopolitical regions used in the study is not necessarily relevant to Late Glacial geography. Finally, the dating programme was based around bone which was, where possible, humanly modified (Housley et al. 1997). The archaeological logic behind this is sound, but it leaves open the problem that some bone can be notoriously difficult to date (e.g. Pollard & Heron 1996: 288-90; Taylor et al. 1996).

Here we use a stepwise approach to the reanalysis of the [.sup.14]C dates in the original paper. Firstly, we look at the effects of applying the 2[Sigma] radiocarbon errors to the moving-sum method used by Housley et al. (1997). Secondly, we calibrate the dates using the curve published in 1993 (Bard et al.) which was available when the paper of Housley et al. was written, in order to demonstrate that the original conclusions could have been shown to be unsound at the time. Thirdly, we examine the effect, if any, of using the latest calibration curve published in Radiocarbon 40/3 (Stuiver & van der Plicht 1998). By calibrating, it becomes possible to compare the radiocarbon dates in this study with ice-core temperature curves (e.g. Alley et al. 1993), which are independent of the radiocarbon timescale. This allows us to test the relationship between climate and population movement against high-resolution climatic data. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Radiocarbon Calibration and Late Glacial Occupation in Northwest Europe
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.