Dating in archaeology a guide to scientific techniques

It must be made clear at the outset that typology is not, strictly speaking, a dating method, but a means of placing artefacts into some kind of order.

Classification divides things up for the purposes of description, whereas typology seeks to identify and analyse changes that will allow artefacts to be placed into sequences.

The journal provides an international forum for archaeologists and scientists from widely different scientific backgrounds who share a common interest in developing and applying scientific methods to inform major debates through improving the quality and reliability of scientific information derived from archaeological research.

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These techniques both place assemblages of artefacts into relative order.

Petrie used sequence dating to work back from the earliest historical phases of Egypt into pre-dynastic Neolithic times, using groups of contemporary artefacts deposited together at a single time in graves.

However, the more dating methods we can use, the more likely it is that our timeframe will be reliable.

Any dating method is only possible when the right sort of material is present (for example, there is no possibility of using radiocarbon or dendrochronology when there is no organic matter or preserved wood available).

It is often slow and tedious work which involves digging down a centimeter at a time, but can also be backbreaking, difficult toil, shoveling through meters of densely packed soil.

But the purpose is the same in either case, to reveal the types of human activities that took place at a site over time.

Through the process of excavation, archaeologists look backwards into time, examining an area at discrete temporal periods.

Excavating a few centimeters down may reflect the material culture of the 1800s while several meters may uncover artifacts from ancient times.

The Parthenon in Athens and the Egyptian pyramids are the exceptions and not the norm (Figure 8.1).

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