Here accuracy is defined based on those samples that can provide a date that is the “true” age of the sample within the statistical limits of the date.Precision is controlled by small laboratory measurement and calibration errors.In a meta-analysis of 1,434 radiocarbon dates from the region, reliable short-lived samples reveal that the colonization of East Polynesia occurred in two distinct phases: earliest in the Society Islands A. ∼1025–1120, four centuries later than previously assumed; then after 70–265 y, dispersal continued in one major pulse to all remaining islands A. Our empirically based and dramatically shortened chronology for the colonization of East Polynesia resolves longstanding paradoxes and offers a robust explanation for the remarkable uniformity of East Polynesian culture, human biology, and language.Models of human colonization, ecological change and historical linguistics for the region now require substantial revision. This analysis shortened East Polynesian prehistory just at the time when accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) radiocarbon dating became available for very small samples (e.g., individual seeds).For each graph, individual ranges (68% probability) of Class 1 calibrated radiocarbon dates are shown as black horizontal lines; circles represent median (bottom axis). other eastern Polynesian islands.) Estimates for the timing of colonization for East Polynesian archipelagos or islands. (The proportion of radiocarbon-dated sample materials in each overall reliability class is shown in Fig. Class 1 dates are dominated by short-lived plant materials (such as small twigs, leaves, and seeds) in contrast to Class 2 and 3 dates, which are dominated by long-lived plant remains and unidentified charcoal, sample types that are often unreliable, as they can introduce substantial error through in-built age.Red dashed line indicates sum of probability distributions (left axis). 1200 based on the assumption that we have 100% confidence that colonization had occurred by this time; and for the remaining islands with Class 1 dates, this was set to A. For each graph, individual ranges (68% probability) of Class 1 calibrated radiocarbon dates are shown as black horizontal lines; circles represent median (bottom axis). The high proportion of unidentified charcoal in Class 3 shows this category of dated materials in the dataset also tends to have large measurement errors. Age estimates for initial colonization of the Gambier archipelago are unusually broad (167-y difference between the EAEM and LAEM, i.e., between A. ∼11) compared with all other islands (average difference of 55 y between earliest and latest estimates). ∼1219–1266, respectively), some 200–500 y later than widely accepted (16, 17), placing them in close agreement with both New Zealand and Rapa Nui.
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Instead we have chosen a “top-down” approach to evaluate the entire archaeological radiocarbon database for East Polynesia as a single entity.
This allows radiocarbon dates, irrespective of stratigraphic context, to be categorized according to accuracy and precision, and for patterns of age and distribution of colonization to be sought accordingly upon the most reliable dated materials.
The reliable Class 1 dates consistently reveal a short chronology for each island or archipelago where data are available.
In contrast, Class 2–3 dates, which are based on materials that have a high risk of imprecision and/or inaccuracy, have a larger spread of ages, and these are often used to support longer chronologies in the region..