Archaeologists prove the secret to a successful date is knowing what is on the menu

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Bora Bora Dining and Food at Sunset

Knowing about food will increase the suc­cess of your dating

ResearchBlogging.orgLooking from the out­side, one of the most under­rated areas of archae­olo­gical research at the moment is the Archaeology of the Pacific. It’s pos­sible to make excit­ing dis­cov­er­ies any­where in the world. In Polynesia though, it’s hard not to. The reason is that Polynesian archae­ology has an odd con­tra­dic­tion. There’s been some excel­lent research done in the Pacific, yet it’s likely to be wrong. The prob­lem is in the dating.

Take Easter Island. The big story there is the eco­lo­gical col­lapse of the island. We know there was an eco­lo­gical col­lapse because set­tlers arrived AD 800, their set­tle­ment pat­terns changed around AD 1200 and when they were dis­covered by Europeans there were rel­at­ively few people on the island. We know they were on the island in AD 800 because that’s been radiocar­bon dated. If those dates were wrong, like if they were too old and set­tlers arrived later, then it’s not just a mat­ter of tweak­ing dates on the timeline in text­books. Suddenly there’s no native-caused pop­u­la­tion crash to explain.

Across the Pacific it turns out that many radiocar­bon dates are too old. Testing the human factor: radiocar­bon dat­ing the first peoples of the South Pacific by Petchey et al. (2011) is a paper that helps explain why, but also shows which dates are accur­ate. First here’s a brief reminder on how radiocar­bon dat­ing works.
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