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Since Aten’s work in the late 1970s and early 1980s, many more Galveston Bay area radiocarbon assays have been run, most of them done on the most commonly preserved organic material—shells—especially rangia clams.By comparing pairs of dates on shell and charcoal found nearby, the latter being the most reliable dating material, some researchers have argued that shells often yield falsely old dates.

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Unfortunately, correcting shell radiocarbon dates is complicated and it may not be necessary.Briefly, it is assumed that the popularity of a specific pottery style waxed and waned and that its distribution through time followed a bell curve, growing in popularity, peaking, and declining as new styles were adopted.By studying the frequency of pottery types from dozens of Galveston Bay site components (discrete deposits representing relatively short intervals of time), Aten was able to work out a relative chronology. Aten’s chronology has been used by many other researchers, however, its usefulness has been called into question by exhibit author Robert Ricklis and others.A further complication is that the amount of dead carbonates in Texas rivers seems to increase significantly as one goes down the coast.In other words, different correction factors may be required for different areas.

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