Taphonomic indicators are often used to assess time-since-death of skeletal remains. These indicators frequently have limited accuracy, resulting in the reliance of other methodologies to age remains. Arctica islandica, commonly known as the ocean quahog, is a relatively widespread bivalve in the North Atlantic, with an extended lifespan that often exceeds two hundred years; hence, their shells are often studied to evaluate climate change over time. This report evaluates taphonomic age using 117 A. islandica shells collected from the Mid-Atlantic Bight offshore of the Delmarva Peninsula with radiocarbon dates extending from 60–4,400 cal years BP. These shells had varying degrees of taphonomic alteration produced by discoloration and degradation of periostracum. To determine if a relationship exists between taphonomic condition and time-since-death, radiocarbon ages were compared with the amount of remaining periostracum and type of discoloration. Old shells (individuals that died long ago) were discolored orange with no periostracum while younger shells (individuals that died more recently) had their original color, with some periostracum. Both the disappearance of periostracum and appearance of discoloration followed a logistic process, with 50% of shells devoid of periostracum and 50% discolored in about 1,000 years. The logistic form of long-term taphonomic processes degrading shell condition is first reported here, as are the longest time series for taphonomic processes in death assemblages within the Holocene record. This relationship can be utilized for triage when deciding what shells to age from time-averaged assemblages, permitting more efficient application of expensive methods of aging such as radiocarbon dating.

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