Coordinated 14C and 230Th dating of Kitchen Cave rockshelter, Gambier (Mangareva) Islands, French Polynesia: Comparing 230Th coral dates with Bayesian model ages

Patrick V. Kirch, Guillaume Molle, Elizabeth M. Niespolo, Warren D. Sharp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Establishing the timing of human colonization of the eastern Pacific and developing cultural chronologies within the island groups of Eastern Polynesia has relied primarily on 14C dating. Despite advancements in 14C dating, however, uncertainties introduced during calibration to calendar ages remain large relative to the tempo of human settlement of the eastern Pacific and ensuing Polynesian cultural development. 230Th dating of coral abraders, a common artifact in Polynesian archaeological sites, can potentially provide more precise ages. We report a high-precision chronology for the Kitchen Cave rockshelter on Kamaka Island in the Mangareva (Gambier) Islands, based on parallel series of 13 14C AMS dates on short-lived plant materials and 19 230Th dates on Acropora coral abraders and non-utilized Acropora coral branches. The 230Th coral dating results are highly consistent with ages from 14C dating, except in two cases where corals younger than expected occupied what are most likely intrusive contexts. Moreover, because the 14C and 230Th dating techniques are largely independent, obtaining consistent results via the two techniques increases confidence in the resulting chronology. A reliable 230Th date of 860 ± 5 CE for a coral from the basal layer of the cultural sequence, whose deposition cannot readily be explained by natural processes, raises the possibility of an early Polynesian visit to Kamaka Island some centuries prior to initiation of permanent occupation in the 11th to 13th centuries. These results confirm that 230Th dating of Acropora branch coral abraders can be applied to other sites in the Pacific with a high degree of confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102724
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Volume35
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology

Keywords

  • Bayesian calibration
  • Coral dating
  • Polynesian archaeology
  • Polynesian settlement
  • Radiocarbon dating
  • U-series dating

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