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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A Re ned Shell Bead Chronology for Late Holocene Central California


In central California, a sequence of late Holocene cultural phases has long been recognized through the seriation of different shell-bead types. Calendrical dating of this sequence has, however, been in doubt. Based on the direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating of 140 stylistically distinct olivella shell beads, we present a re ned late Holocene cultural chronology for central California that replaces Bennyhoff and Hughes’ (1987) Scheme B. This study uses an empirically-derived ∆R value of 260 ± 35 to calibrate marine shell dates, revealing a series of short 125- to 620-year-long shell-bead style horizons from cal A.D. 200 through approximately cal A.D. 1835, following a 1,500-year- long period where little change in shell-bead styles is apparent. The new chronology supports long-recognized shifts in hunter-gatherer culture, and identi es an unexpected delay in the acceptance of bow and arrow technology in lowland central California until cal A.D. 1020 –1265.

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