Radiocarbon re-dating of contact-era Iroquoian history in northeastern North America

December 5, 2018

A time frame for late Iroquoian prehistory is firmly established on the basis of the presence/absence of European trade goods and other archeological indicators. However, independent dating evidence is lacking. We use 86 radiocarbon measurements to test and (re)define existing chronological understanding. Warminster, often associated with Cahiagué visited by S. de Champlain in 1615–1616 CE, yields a compatible radiocarbon-based age. However, a well-known late prehistoric site sequence in southern Ontario, Draper-Spang-Mantle, usually dated ~1450–1550, yields much later radiocarbon-based dates of ~1530–1615. The revised time frame dramatically rewrites 16th-century contact-era history in this region. Key processes of violent conflict, community coalescence, and the introduction of European goods all happened much later and more rapidly than previously assumed. Our results suggest the need to reconsider current understandings of contact-era dynamics across northeastern North America.

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Sturt Manning, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Classical Archaeology, at work in the Cornell Tree-Ring Laboratory.