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During the twentieth century, however, this changed with the development of a number of scientific methods for determining the age of an archaeological site.Dendrochronology: In 1901, University of Arizona astronomer A. Douglass began doing research on tree rings which developed into an archaeological dating method known as dendrochronology. We believe the remains are from individuals ancestral to the Ute Mouache Band, which is now being contacted for repatriation efforts.

During the next century and a half, many ancient American Indian sites would be dug up by archaeologists, both amateur and professional, who were unable to determine the actual age of these sites.

There was lots of speculation about the age of these sites, but very little hard data regarding their antiquity.

In a recent effort to repatriate the remains, it was necessary to fit them into a cultural chronology in order to determine the appropriate tribe(s) for consultation pursuant to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

Because the remains were found in an eroded context with no artifacts or funerary objects, their age was unknown.

Douglass was studying the effects of sunspots on climate.

Since he did not have weather records long enough to be tested for correlation with the 22 year sunspot cycle, Douglass turned to the rings of coniferous trees as potential proxy climate indicators.

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Dating from the Anasazi period skilled craftswomen use the traditional material rush, a woody shrub, to interweave intricate checkered designs to form functional baskets and cradles.

Having been asked to avoid destructive dating methods such as radiocarbon dating, the authors used Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) to date the sediments embedded in the cranium.

Not only do our methods contribute to the immediate repatriation efforts, they provide archaeologists with a versatile, non-destructive, numerical dating method that can be used in many burial contexts.

"Individuals from 9,000 or more years ago have morphological attributes -- physical form and structure -- distinctive from later Native American peoples," said Douglas Kennett, professor of environmental archaeology, Penn State.