CARD was Richard "Dick" Morlan's achievement, and he devoted considerable skill and energy toward it. As Ian Dyck notes in his tribute (below), Dick continued to work on CARD to the end of his life. Started in the 1990's CARD was one of the first efforts at a big data digital platform. As we now know, radiocarbon dates are themselves data through which we can query history and its demographic patterns. Like all data of complex phenomenon, such efforts are improved by a larger sample, and it was Dick's ambition that CARD would represent the most comprehensive compilation of dates possible. To that end, he worked tirelessly throughout his career to compile data. Upon his retirement in 2007, the database contained over 30,000 c14 dates, primarily from North America. This represented one of the largest repositories of c14 data in the world. Since his retirement (and death, shortly after) the database has languished somewhat: its interface and functionality had become antiquated, and its use by archaeologists was declining. The recent partnership agreement between UBC and CMH seeks to rejuvenate CARD in an effort to fulfil Dick's ambition of making CARD the de facto repository for archaeological c14 dates in North America. Dick wrote the following history of CARD for the original website. We reproduce it here in full. Below you will find Ian Dyck's tribute to Dick.

Richard Morlan's Narration of the Origins of CARD

Hobbits delighted in ... books filled with things that they already know, set out fair and square with no contradictions.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Although every record in this database has been entered at my keyboard, this compilation of radiocarbon dates and vertebrate faunas reflects the help and support of many people and institutions. Some people were instrumental in establishing the roots of this effort, some in supporting the methods of compilation, some in dealing with language issues, some in supplying the actual data. You, the browser or user of this database, have a role to play in its future.

The Roots

In 1987, I participated in a workshop convened by Renee Kra at Yale University to plan the scope and content of the International Radiocarbon Database (Kra, 1988a, 1988b). The Canadian Museum of Civilization paid for my travel and has supported every aspect of this work ever since. At the workshop I met Roger McNeely who operates the radiocarbon laboratory at the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC). Roger and I discussed general ideas of compiling a Canadian radiocarbon database.

My first step toward this goal was to compile and evaluate Avonlea radiocarbon dates (Morlan, 1988). The next was to compile a list of Saskatchewan archaeological radiocarbon dates (Morlan, 1993). At this point, Roger McNeely showed me how to capture the Saskatchewan list as a digital database. With the help of Brian Schreiner, McNeely greatly expanded coverage of the non-archaeological dates from Saskatchewan, and we released a comprehensive digital database as a GSC Open File report (Morlan et al., 1996). As I worked with these data I began to dream of a national database that would enable Canadian archaeologists to search for dates by region, site name, cultural affiliation, etc. Meanwhile, McNeely urged me to compile the archaeological dates from Manitoba for an Open File report that we subsequently prepared with the assistance of Erik Nielsen (Morlan et al., 1999).

In the course of this work, I realized that my position at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) offers several advantages for compiling a national database of radiocarbon dates on archaeological and paleontological sites. More than 1500 dates, nearly a quarter of the dataset, have been processed through the radiocarbon dating program that has been administered over the years by William Irving, Roscoe Wilmeth, Bryan Gordon, and (currently) myself. Those files are literally on my desktop. The CMC library has a complete set of the journal "Radiocarbon" and nearly complete runs of almost every archaeological journal and newsletter published in Canada. CMC is the institution of record for archaeological sites in Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and Yukon; it is Lucie Johanis at CMC who determines the precise coordinates of sites, assigns the Borden numbers, and forwards the permit reports to the CMC Documents Section of the library. Lucie's database and all of the documents are available to me. Through various agreements with the provinces, permit reports from British Columbia and Alberta are available on microfiche in CMC's Documents Section. Most reports filed with Parks Canada are similarly available. Unpublished Ph.D. dissertations and M.A. theses are available on microfiche from the National Library of Canada, usually on a few day's notice. It is doubtful that this wealth of resources is so accessible elsewhere in the country, and I came to view the compilation of this database as a responsibility. With this scope in mind, I began work in the winter of 1996-97.

The Methods

Since Roger McNeely and I envision a national radiocarbon database in the long term, I adopted the database software that Roger uses to compile and maintain the GSC Date Locater File. This software is called "Cardbox," and its records are somewhat like old-fashioned file cards. It is very easy to use. The "front" of each card is a structured screen mask with fields of defined length and purpose. The "back" of each card can hold a large amount of un-formatted text. It is ideally suited for radiocarbon data by prompting input for all the usual information on the front of the card and permitting full commentary on the back. It is unique in permitting the indexing of a single word or number within any field on the front of the card. Most database programs offer indexing for a whole field or none at all. CMC purchased a single-user license for Cardbox, despite the fact that its use represents a departure from the standard chosen for the institution. However, this departure from the standard meant that no support for the use of this software was available from CMC, and Roger McNeely became my personal helpdesk, for which I am most grateful.

With the software chosen and the screen mask designed, the first sources of data were the previous national compilations by Roscoe Wilmeth (1971, 1978) and the subsequent date records of the CMC radiocarbon program. These sources furnished a file of nearly 1500 dates. Other dates were found by searching every issue of "Radiocarbon," and in the later stages making use of the index provided on the Radiocarbon web site. Then the CMC's Mercury Series Papers were systematically searched. Thereafter I worked geographically, beginning in southeastern Canada, moving westward across the provinces, then turning to northern Canada looking for data from all sources in the territories. Jean-Luc Pilon had indexed all of the Canadian Archaeological Association publications, providing a window into each province and territory in the country. I used his index as a starting point, pausing to search page-by-page through every provincial or regional journal and newsletter I found, always starting from the latest issue and going back to earlier ones in order to take advantage of citations to previous reports.

This process uncovered a valuable resource, namely the personal libraries of my CMC colleagues that contain a wealth of published and unpublished reports. All of my colleagues have made their personal libraries available to this database compilation, and I am grateful for their tolerance as I have often stepped quietly into their offices to borrow a book or journal even as they have been speaking on the telephone (or whatever).

I made every effort to track each radiocarbon date back to its original report. If a thesis or dissertation was cited, I ordered it on interlibrary loan, and I thank Sylvie LaFlamme, CMC's interlibrary loans officer, for acquiring hundreds of these on microfiche. If a consultant's report was cited, I looked for it in the CMC Documents Section where it might reside on microfiche. All unpublished manuscripts from northern Canada are available in hard-copy, and I thank Sarah Prower for retrieving hundreds of them for me. I also thank Suzanne Perron for her help in locating and borrowing books and journals in our main library collection.

The dates on non-archaeological vertebrate sites come from other sources, most notably from A.S. Dyke (Geological Survey of Canada) and C.R. Harington (Canadian Museum of Nature). Both Dyke and Harington have developed radiocarbon databases for other purposes, and they have been extremely generous in sharing their data for my purpose. They have also given generously when asked for additional information about site location or other trivia.

A final observation about methods is that this database would be far less complete without the benefit of electronic mail. Despite the excellent support of the CMC library and access to Lucie Johanis' outstanding database, this compilation could not have been completed in only three years without access to e-mail. Hundreds of people across Canada and elsewhere have answered my e-mail letters, often overnight.

The Vertebrate Connection

Although mainly oriented toward archaeology and radiocarbon dates, CARD includes coverage of part of the palaeontological record. It represents a first step toward the creation of a vertebrate database that can be incorporated into the FAUNMAP database already established at the Illinois State Museum. This database contains the scientific names of associated mammals in the Associated Taxa field, using terminology found in Banfield (1977), FAUNMAP Working Group (1994), and Kurtén and Anderson (1980).

There are several reasons for enlarging the coverage to include vertebrate sites. There is substantial overlap between archaeological and palaeobiological study. In some cases it is not clear whether a palaeobiological find or locality is of archaeological importance. On the other hand, most of the vertebrate record of the post-glacial period in Canada resides in the archaeological sites. Since archaeologists reserve the right to excavate such sites, they must also shoulder the burden of developing and integrating the palaeobiological and archaeological records. Furthermore, the occurrences of other mammals can provide evidence that the post-glacial landscape was becoming suitable for human habitation. In some parts of Canada the oldest evidence of post-glacial mammals consists of beaver-gnawed wood. If the beavers are present, humans may not be far behind. In other areas there are dated large mammal bones much older than the earliest dated archaeological sites, and the difference in age may signal the need to look more carefully for archaeological evidence. Some of the vertebrate fossils should be re-examined in the light of modern analytical concepts.


Each date is presented in the language in which it has been reported, usually English, but approximately 8% French. All of the introductory and explanatory documents have been translated into French by Roger Marois whom I thank most sincerely for this effort. It would be prohibitively expensive to translate the entire database, but some terms must be translated in order for the computer to find all of the relevant records. Limited translation has been introduced into two fields - "Material dated" and "Significance" - that appear on the search screen. Each of these fields is supported by a glossary of terms. For example, if the material dated is reported as "charbon de bois" the term "charcoal" also appears. If the significance field identifies the site as "Archaque" the spelling "Archaic" also appears in the field.


"Archaeology of Eastern North America" was an important source of dates from Atlantic Canada. David Keenlyside made his books and reprints available to me, and I received assistance from the sites offices, Steven Powell in Nova Scotia and Albert Ferguson in New Brunswick. Corrections and previously unpublished dates were provided by David Black, Stephen Davis, Michael Deal, Rob Ferguson, Kevin Leonard, Randall Miller, Ron Nash, David Sanger, and Helen Sheldon. Jeff Zimmer retrieved copies of J.S. Erskine's 1961-62 correspondence from the archives of the Saskatchewan Research Council in order to clarify two dates from Nova Scotia that have never been published previously.

The annual reports in "Archaeology in Newfoundland & Labrador..." were valuable sources for that region. Elaine Anton and Delphina Mercer provided a lot of help from the site files in St. John's. Ralph Pastore, Priscilla Renouf, Marianne Stopp, and Birgitta Wallace answered many of my inquiries. Birgitta supplied more than 100 previously unpublished dates from L'Anse aux Meadows. Steven Cox generously loaned a copy of his Ph.D. dissertation when it was discovered that no copy of that important work existed in Canada.

The compilation of radiocarbon dates by Hlne Taillon and Georges Barr was the principal source of data from Qubec. In addition, I searched all available issues of Collection Palo-Qubec, and Jean-Luc Pilon generously shared his personal library with me. Claude Pinard provided previously unpublished dates from the Avataq Cultural Institute.

In Ontario, the "Green Bible" edited by Chris Ellis and Neal Ferris was an invaluable guide to published and unpublished literature. "Kewa," "Arch Notes," and "Ontario Archaeology" were systematically searched. Peter Timmins generously provided a copy of his compilation of Iroquoian dates, and Lawrence Jackson and Paddy Reid replied to my inquiries. Penny Young, the Archaeological Data Coordinator in Toronto, provided extensive assistance.

Ian Dyck generously shared his personal library of books and reprints concerning the Prairie provinces. In Manitoba, I received assistance from Gary Dickson, Sid Kroker, Allison Landals, David Meyer, Ron Nash, Erik Nielsen, Bev Nicholson, and E. Leigh Syms. Peter Walker provided a considerable amount information from the files of the Historic Resources Branch. Similar assistance was received from Carlos Germann in Saskatchewan's Heritage Branch. Generous help was provided by Jim Finnigan, Terry Gibson, Urve Linnamae, David Meyer, and Ernie Walker. Much of the Alberta data had been previously compiled by John Brumley and Carol Rushworth, by Jon Driver, and especially by Alwynne Beaudoin who generously shared a large manuscript of previously unpublished dates. Jim Burns provided extensive assistance with palaeobiological dates from Alberta.

Dates from British Columbia had been compiled previously by John Clague, by Ian Hutchinson, by R.G. Matson and Gary Coupland, by Don Mitchell, and by Tom Richards and Mike Rousseau. For answering my inquiries, I thank Bruce Ball, Peter Bobrowsky, Catherine Carlson, Roy Carlson, Brian Chisholm, Stan Copp, Brian Hayden, Marty Magne, and Erle Nelson.

Since the Canadian Museum of Civilization is the institution of record for archaeological sites in northern Canada, most of the data were available locally. I especially thank Lucie Johanis for sharing her database with me. Ruth Gotthardt sent the entire database that had been compiled in Whitehorse, and Art Dyke and Dick Harington shared their extensive compilations of paleobiological dates. For answering my inquiries, I thank Gary Adams, Chuck Arnold, David Arthurs, Jacques Cinq-Mars, Brenda Clark, Art Dyke, Bryan Gordon, Ruth Gotthardt, Lynda Gullason, Dick Harington, Allen McCartney, Karen McCullough, Bob McGhee, David Morrison, Jean-Luc Pilon, Peter Schledermann, Mark Stevenson, Pat Sutherland, and Jeff Zimmer.

Last, but by no means least, I sincerely thank Luke Dalla Bona, CAA Webmaster, and Jean-Luc Pilon, CAA Web Editor, for their creative and technical work in designing and presenting this database on the Internet.

The Future

This database is a work in progress. Perhaps it always will be, because hopefully new radiocarbon dates will be released as they are obtained. Many archaeologists seem to want a period of time during which to think about their new dates, rather like "digesting" them. This is quite understandable in the case of a complex, stratified site where the analysis of a lot of data from different disciplines must be integrated into a holistic picture. Sites of that kind tend to get reported, sooner or later, and the dates are presented in a comprehensible context. However, many of our radiocarbon dates are one-hit wonders! They either support our preconceptions or challenge them, and many of these are obtained in the course of impact assessment or other urgent work. There may be no funding available for a final report. There may be no need for a publication. However, the radiocarbon date itself is valuable, potentially of value to researchers in other disciplines as well as to archaeologists. I hope that this radiocarbon database will become a venue for presenting these results, even (or especially) when no further reporting is anticipated.

This database contains, no doubt, many errors. It is known to be incomplete. There are missing lab numbers, missing information about material dated and about provenience, etc. There may be incorrect or obsolete expressions of cultural affiliation. In many cases, I may have said that cultural affiliation is unknown because I did not understand it, but it may be well known to the submitter of the sample. In some cases, I may have "normalized" a date that was already normalized, in which case my "normalized age" is meaningless. I make no special apologies for these errors, but I acknowledge them. I expect you to correct them by sending me better data. My e-mail address is available on every page of this database.

The long term future of this database will depend upon whether or not the archaeological community finds it truly useful. Some of my colleagues at CMC claim that they already use the database almost everyday. I hope you will find this database useful, and I hope you will send new dates as well as corrections for the existing records.

References Cited

Banfield, A.W.F.
1977 The mammals of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 438 p.

Faunmap Working Group
1994 FAUNMAP: a database documenting Late Quaternary distributions of mammal species in the United States. Illinois State Museum, Scientific Papers 25(1-2): 690 p.
1996 Spatial response of mammals to Late Quaternary environmental fluctuations. Science 272: 1601-1606.

Kurtén, B. and Anderson, E.
1980 Pleistocene mammals of North America. New York: Columbia University Press, 443 p.

Kra, R.
1988a The first American workshop on the International Radiocarbon Data Base. Radiocarbon 30(2): 259-260.
1988b Updating the past: the establishment of the International Radiocarbon Data Base. American Antiquity 53(1): 118-125.

Lyman, R.L.
1994 Vertebrate taphonomy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Morlan, R.E.
1987 Archaeology as Palaeobiology. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Series V, Vol. II, pp. 117-124.
1988 Avonlea and radiocarbon dating. In Avonlea Yesterday and Today: archaeology and prehistory, edited by L.B. Davis. Saskatoon: Saskatchewan Archaeological Society pp. 291-309.
1993 A compilation and evaluation of radiocarbon dates in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan Archaeology 13: 2-84.

Morlan, R.E., McNeely, R., and Nielsen, E.
1999 Manitoba radiocarbon dates and vertebrate faunas. Geological Survey of Canada Open File Report.

Morlan, R.E., McNeely, R., and Schreiner, B.T.
1996 Saskatchewan radiocarbon dates and vertebrate faunas. Geological Survey of Canada Open File Report.

In Memoriam: Richard E. Morlan (1941-2007)

The creator of this innovative and much-used database, Richard E. “Dick” Morlan, died on 2 January 2007. This was just a few weeks after he had formally retired from the Canadian Museum of Civilization where he had worked for 37 years. Although afflicted with a debilitating neurophysiological disease during the last two years of his life, he continued working to expand and improve the database as long as he was able. Those results are incorporated in Dr. Matthew Betts’ recent update.

Dick was born in Woodstock, Virginia and earned his BA at George Washington University where he studied archaeology under Dr. Jack Campbell. Campbell took him to Alaska for his first field season, during which Dick developed a life-long interest in faunal analysis. He continued studying archaeology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he obtained MA and PhD degrees. There, he also became acquainted with archaeologists from the National Museum of Canada (parent of the Canadian Museum of Civilization). In 1969, he was hired by the National Museum as Yukon Archaeologist. During the next 12 years he made milestone contributions to the late prehistory and early history of the Yukon with investigations at Klo-kut, Cadzow Lake and other sites. But perhaps the highlight of this era was his organization and direction of the Yukon Refugium Project, a multidisciplinary search for the earliest peopling of North America. This six-year study involved geology, stratigraphy, palynology, palaeontology, archaeology, taphonomy and numerous forms of chronology. Although he didn’t find “the archaeological needle” (a primary archaeological site of Pleistocene age) in the “stratigraphic haystack,” his work prompted much closer analysis of animal bones for possible signs of human alteration and introduced taphonomy to Canadian archaeology.

Dick survived a plane crash in the Yukon in 1981, which reduced his enthusiasm for northern fieldwork. That year he moved to the vacant Plains Archaeologist position and turned his attention to a number of collaborative projects, first in southern Alberta with Jack Brink at the Head-Smashed-In site, and later with Ernest Walker at Wanuskewin Heritage Park and Ian Dyck at the Sjovold site. In all these projects his contributions centered on faunal analysis, but also included taphonomy, stratigraphy and chronology.

During the period he was Plains Archaeologist, Dick was assigned two other roles – technical editor for the Museum’s Archaeological Mercury Series and manager of the Museum’s radiocarbon dating program. The first gave him a wide acquaintance with the Canadian archaeological literature and the second led him to the realization that an up-to-date compilation of standardized, contextualized Canadian radiocarbon dates, from all sources, would be a tremendous boon to researchers. He started this compilation in a small way, simply by updating the Museum’s list of its own dates. Then he began to compile and evaluate certain Plains radiocarbon dates. When he became Curator of Paleoenvironmental Studies in 1989, a position he held until retirement, he had the freedom to expand his interests nationally and internationally. Dick took this opportunity to engage in an amazingly detailed search of a vast literature. Beyond that, he entered into extensive correspondence with archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists across the northern half of the continent concerning unpublished or incompletely published radiocarbon dates and date compilations. The final result was the Canadian Archaeological Radiocarbon Database.

We miss Dick. He was a prodigiously productive scholar, a first-rate scientist, an inspiration to colleagues, a mentor to students, a discipline builder and a friend. It would be a comfort for him to know that his massive radiocarbon database continues to be useful and that Matthew Betts has agreed to maintain and develop it for the foreseeable future.

Ian Dyck, PhD Curator of Plains Archaeology Canadian Museum of Civilization