I am still plowing through the literature seeking out information on C14 dates. Some of it is really hard to come by, with a date attributed to a house but no information on the sample, either what it was or where it came from. Then I look at the information on the artifacts from that house, turn to the plates (not naming any names here, but there are multiple offenders) to look at the artifacts, and see that the plates say they are from a house nearby. Obviously either the text or the plates are wrong (unless they both are, but I’d rather not go there), so now one is left quite unsure of what was really being dated, and what sorts of artifacts were actually associated with that date. Cross-dating based on artifact assemblages takes another one on the chin.
Another example from today: a date on wood and skin (what kind? caribou, seal, polar bear?) from a burial for which the description seems to indicate that it was only a few baby teeth! It’s one thing to have typos in a dissertation, but in published books that people are expected to pay money for? If people don’t read carefully, and compare about three different places in the book at once, it’s all too easy to accept a date at face value and assume that what is said about what it was found with is correct. Then it gets mentioned elsewhere, and people read it there and pass it on, and so forth.
Such dates do not get high scores for context or association with the event being dated. Actually they get zeros, since those factors are unknown.
All this in aid of a handbook article (well, two articles, since this C14 stuff should make an article as well). On the other hand, a number of people say it should be useful. I’m sure they’re all really glad that I’m doing it and they aren’t. Can’t say I blame them.