Radiocarbon dating marine shell: challenges and opportunities in Canadian coastal archaeology

Dusseault, Marisa (2023) Radiocarbon dating marine shell: challenges and opportunities in Canadian coastal archaeology. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

[img] [English] PDF - Accepted Version
Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.

Download (3MB)


Marine mollusk shells are the most abundant materials found at coastal archaeology sites. They are often found in large accumulations called middens which are formed as a result of shellfish processing activities and may be features of dwelling sites. Despite the abundance of marine mollusk shells at coastal sites, terrestrial samples are often favoured for radiocarbon analysis because they are free from local marine reservoir effects. In this thesis, I investigate intra-shell radiocarbon variability in three mollusk species from coastal sites across Canada: Saxidomus gigantea from British Columbia, Mya arenaria from Nova Scotia, and Crassostrea virginica from Prince Edward Island. Each of these species has different growth strategies that must be considered to understand time-averaging effects in the radiocarbon measurements. Short-lived C. virginica samples from Prince Edward Island had the best agreement between intra-shell radiocarbon measurements. Additional radiocarbon measurements on twelve M. arenaria shells from Port Joli Harbour, Nova Scotia show good agreement with the previously published terrestrial dates and paired marine-terrestrial samples are used to calculate the first archaeological ΔR values for the region. Building confidence in marine shell radiocarbon will greatly widen the number of samples that archaeologists can study from coastal midden sites, especially ones that may be rapidly eroding and lack terrestrial samples.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
Item ID: 16269
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references
Keywords: radiocarbon, sclerochronology, local marine reservoir correction, coastal archaeology, chronology
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Archaeology
Date: July 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Radiocarbon dating--British Columbia; Sclerochronology--British Columbia; Coastal archaeology--British Columbia; Mollusks--British Columbia; Radiocarbon dating--Nova Scotia--Port Joli; Sclerochronology--Nova Scotia--Port Joli; Coastal archaeology--Nova Scotia--Port Joli; Mollusks--Nova Scotia--Port Joli; Radiocarbon dating--Prince Edward Island; Sclerochronology--Prince Edward Island; Coastal archaeology--Prince Edward Island; Mollusks--Prince Edward Island

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over the past year

View more statistics