Archaeological dating methods

By Lewis Borck, Preservation Archaeology Fellow Dating techniques are one of first things students learn about in archaeology courses in the United States.

Two broad categories of dating, relative and absolute, are introduced, and four major specific types of dating are presented to the reader; stratigraphy, dendrochronology, obsidian hydration dating, and radiocarbon dating.

The negatives of stratigraphy are then discussed, and include deformation, overlapping and reverse stratigraphy, and the method is evaluated on the whole.

This format is then applied to the other three types of dating discussed.

The stratigraphic method, which observes the sequence of earth strata containing artifacts, makes it possible to attribute each stratum to a definite epoch. The typological method is based on the fact that the types of objects and the material from which they were made were different in various historic epochs.

The transition from relative to absolute chronology is possible when undated objects are found together with objects whose time of manufacture is known or with coins or inscriptions and when studies are made of remains that have been dated from written sources.

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