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The emergence of man through the process of biological and cultural evolution is a story of long span of time. For the archaeologist and the prehistorian who deals with that long history of man, time is the most important consideration. The sequence of development of culture or the relationship between events that represent culture can be established only when events can be placed in proper time. Chronology, the study of events in time frame, is hence the central theme of archaeologist, like the geologist who deals with the story of earth history. In fact, chronology is one of the most fundamental issues in and perhaps a characteristic of archaeology. Archaeologists use several methods to assign ages to events of the past.

The Almanac belonging to Maya culture of Central America helped in dating several important sites accurately on the basis of astronomy. Astronomical data have been applied in the study of geological ice ages by calculating the curves for major fluctuation of solar radiation. Consequently, the chronology worked out for the geological deposits helped in dating the prehistoric tools found in these deposits.

There are certain antiquities and potteries which by themselves have acquired a dating value. Whenever and where ever such antiquities are found, associated finds are automatically dated. Sir Flinders Petrie had worked out a formula for dating the finds on the basis of the thickness of the deposit.

According to him a period of hundred years may be granted for the accumulation of a deposit of one and a half feet. However this formula has not been accepted by many archaeologists. Further this formula has been disproved on many occasions. Pottery is probably the most abundantly available antique material in any archaeological site.

It is based on the simple fact that industrial and art forms and for that matter all objects are subject to evolutionary process. Working out these changes brought in during the evolutionary process helps us in fixing chronological slots for different shapes. Examples may be cited from Greek archaeology where even the shapes of the pots have been appropriately and approximately dated.

Similarly the forms of the pots of the Maya culture and the shapes and decorations on the Chinese potteries have been so adequately dated that their relative dating value is immense. But in India though the variety of wares are satisfactorily dated the typological evolution is yet to be worked out. Houses, publica buildings and places of worship are also quite useful in providing relative dating. It is a common knowledge that the building and the building material of Harappan architecture are quite characteristic.

Again the architectural feature of the building of th4e Sultanate period, Mughal period, Maratha period are quite distinct and have, therefore, accordingly been assigned different dates. This is one of the most important methods of dating the ancient objects which contain some carbon in them.

This method was discovered by Prof. Willard F. Libby inwhich won him Noble Prize in Chemistry. This method has achieved fame within a short time largely because it provides chronology for the prehistoric cultures, when we do not have written records. Scientific Explanation of this Therory :. This method is based on the presence of radio-active carbon of atomic weight 14 in organic matter.

Cosmic radiation produces in the upper atmosphere of the earth Neutron particles, some of which hit the atoms of ordinary Nitrogen. This is captured by the nucleus of the nitrogen atom, which gives off a proton and thus changing to Carbon This creation of new carbon atoms and then reverting to nitrogen has achieved a state of equilibrium in the long duration of the earths existence.

Thus the process of radio carbon present in the living organism is same as in the atmosphere. It is further assumed that all living animals derive body material from the plant kingdom, and also exhibit the same proportion of C material. Therefore as soon as the organism dies no further radiocarbon is added. At that time the radioactive disintegration takes over in an uncompensated manner.

The C has a half-life of about years, i. In the disintegration process the Carbon returns to nitrogen emitting a beta particle in the process. The quantity of the C remaining is measured by counting the beta radiation emitted per minute per gram of material.

Modern C emits about 15 counts per minute per gram, whereas Carbon which is years old, emits about 7. Specimens for C Dating :. Specimens of organic material which can yield good amount of carbon can be collected for C dating.

Quantity of Samples:. Quantity of samples sent for radicarbon dating should be sufficient enough to give proper results. As quite a bit of sample is lost in the pre-pigmentation process one should try to collect as big sample as possible. Bones are generally affected by ground water carbonates and are therefore least reliable for dating. Charred bones are better preserved and are therefore relatively more reliable. Charcoal is best material specially if derived from short live plants.

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How to collect samples:. While collecting samples for radio carbon dating we should take utmost care, and should observe the following principles and methods. Sample should be collected from and undisturbed layer. Deposits bearing, pit activities and overlap of layers are not good for sampling. The excavator himself should collect the sample from an undisturbed area of the site which has a fair soil cover and is free of lay water associated structures like ring wells and soakage pits.

Samples which are in contact or near the roots of any plants or trees should not be collected because these roots may implant fresh carbon into the specimens. Handling with bare hands may add oil, grease, etc to the sample. Therefore, it is better to collect samples with clean and dry stainless steel sclapels or squeezers. It may also be collected with the help of glass. Stainless steel, glass, polythene and aluminium are free from carbonatious organic material. Therefore sampling should be done with such material only.

Samples should be sundried before pacing in aluminium thin foils and placed in a glass jar or secured safely in thick polythene covers. Before pacing the soil should be removed while it is wet at the site. Method of Sample Recording:. Before removing the sample from the site we should note down the data or the environment of the sample. We have to fill the data sheets, which should be done at the time of sampling and should be submitted along with the sample to the dating laboratory.

These sheets require data on environment and stratigraphy of the sample, and archaeological estimates of its dating. This data help in obtaining and objective interpretation of dates.

Archaeological Dating: Stratigraphy and Seriation

Limitation and Errors of C Dating:. There are a number of technical difficulties inherent in this method of dating. The first difficulty is that the quantity required for a single determination is comparatively large. It will be difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of samples, especially in the case of valuable museum specimens. The second difficulty is that the radio active decay does not take place at a uniform rate but is a random process, and is therefore, governed by the laws of statistical probability.

Another difficulty that has to be taken into serious consideration is the possibility of uneven distribution of radio carbon in organic matter. If the specimen is analyzed after having been exposed to contamination by carbon compounds of an age younger than its own, radio carbon age is liable to be reduced.

The best results can be obtained from specimens, which were preserved under very dry conditions, or even enclosed in rock tombs of the like. Very dangerous contamination is done, very often, by the growth of fungus and bacteria on the surface of the specimen which even when removed from the specimen may falsify its actual age. Though there are some drawbacks and technical difficulties, the radiocarbon method is a reliable, efficient and most useful method of dating the archaeological specimens.

We are helpless in the case of contamination done by the natural agencies in the past, but we can overcome most of the difficulties by paying sufficient care and attention while collecting the samples.

It is the duty of an archaeologist to study with care the condition of preservation of specimens submitted for analysis and, in fact, to submit only specimens that can be regarded as fool-proof as is possible in the circumstances. Dendrochronology is a method that uses tree-ring analysis to establish chronology.

HIST 1111 - Prehistory: Dating Methods

A major application of dendrochronology in archaeology, as a tool for establishing dates from the samples of wood and articles made out of wood is not only in working out primary chronologies but also in cross checking the already known dates by other methods. Often, the tree-ring analysis from a site can give strong clues about the length of occupation, certain periods of building or repair activities at the site.

Another application of tree-ring analysis is the inference of past environmental conditions, which is extremely useful to the archaeologists. The modern science of dendrochronology was pioneered by A.

Douglass in Tree ring analysis is based on the phenomenon of formation of annual growth rings in many trees, such as conifers. These rings are shown by the trees growing in regions with regular seasonal changes of climate. As a rule trees produce one ring every year. When growing season rainy season begins, sets of large, thinly-walled cells are added to the wood.

This process repeats in the following years also. The formation of rings is affected by drought and prosperous seasons. In the years with unfavourable weather the growth rings will be unusually narrow. Without radioactive datinga clever forgery might be indistinguishable from a real artifact.

There are some limitations, however, to the use of this technique. Samples that were heated or irradiated at some time may yield by radioactive dating an age less than the true age of the object. Because of this limitation, other dating techniques are often used along with radioactive dating to ensure accuracy.

Uranium series dating techniques rely on the fact that radioactive uranium and thorium isotopes decay into a series of unstable, radioactive "daughter" isotopes; this process continues until a stable non-radioactive lead isotope is formed. The "parent" isotopes have half-lives of several billion years. Uranium series have been used to date uranium-rich rocks, deep-sea sediments, shells, bones, and teeth, and to calculate the ages of ancient lakebeds. In the case of daughter excess, a larger amount of the daughter is initially deposited than the parent.

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Some volcanic minerals and glasses, such as obsidiancontain uranium U. Over time, these substances become "scratched. When an atom of U splits, two "daughter" atoms rocket away from each other, leaving in their wake tracks in the material in which they are embedded.

Although certain dating techniques are accurate only within certain age ranges, whenever possible, scientists attempt to use multiple methods to date specimens. Correlation of dates via different dating methods provides a highest degree of confidence in dating.

See also Evolution, evidence of; Fossil record; Fossils and fossilization; Geologic time; Historical geology. Relative dating methods tell only if one sample is older or younger than another; absolute dating methods provide a date in years. Many absolute dating techniques take advantage of radioactive decaywhereby a radioactive form of an element is converted into a non-radioactive product at a regular rate.

The technique works best if the animals belonged to species which evolved quickly, expanded rapidly over a large area, or suffered a mass extinction. Pollen that ends up in lake beds or peat bogs is the most likely to be preserved, but pollen may also become fossilized in arid conditions if the soil is acidic or cool.

The varnish contains cations, which are positivelycharged atoms or molecules. This radiation may come from radioactive substances such as uraniumpresent in the clay or burial medium, or from cosmic radiation. Thermoluminescence dating has the advantage of covering the time interval between radiocarbon and potassium-argon datingor 40,- years.

As the rocks cool, argon 40Ar begins to accumulate. Argon is formed in the rocks by the radioactive decay of potassium 40K. The amount of 40Ar formed is proportional to the decay rate half-life of 40K, which is 1. The reason such old material is required is that it takes a very long time to accumulate enough 40Ar to be measured accurately.

Dating Methods in Prehistory. The emergence of man through the process of biological and cultural evolution is a story of long span of time. For the archaeologist and the prehistorian who deals with that long history of man, time is the most important consideration. DATING METHODS IN ARCHAEOLOGY This method is more useful in dating the prehistoric sites. The starting phase of the Palaeolithic period in India is pushed back by atleast one million years from the earlier dating of about 5 lakh years million years B.C. This unique example comes from a sit known as Bori in Maharashtra, where it. Sep 14,   Here of some of the well-tested methods of dating used in the study of early humans: Potassium-argon dating, Argon-argon dating, Carbon (or Radiocarbon), and Uranium of these methods measure the amount of radioactive decay of chemical elements; the decay occurs in a consistent manner, like a clock, over long periods of time.

The range of conventional radiocarbon dating is 30, years, but with sensitive instrumentation this range can be extended to 70, years. Radiocarbon 14C is a radioactive form of the element carbon. It decays spontaneously into nitrogen 14N. Atoms of 14C and of a non-radioactive form of carbon, 12C, are equally likely to be incorporated into living organisms-there is no discrimination. The ratio will then begin to change as the 14C in the dead organism decays into 14N. This is the time required for half of the 14C to decay into 14N.

The half-life of 14C is 5, years. This allows us to determine how much 14C has formed since the death of the organism. The "parent" isotopes have half-lives of several thousand million years. Geyh, Mebus A. Absolute Age Determination. New York : Springer-Verlag, Oberhofer, and D. Regulla, eds. Scientific Dating Methods. Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, Lewis, C. Fission-Track Dating. Movies and television have presented a romantic vision of archaeology as adventure in far-away and exotic locations.

A more realistic picture might show researchers digging in smelly mud for hours under the hot sun while battling relentless mosquitoes. This type of archaeological research produces hundreds of small plastic bags containing pottery shards, animal bones, bits of worked stone, and other fragments. These findings must be classified, which requires more hours of tedious work in a stuffy tent.

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At its best, archaeology involves a studious examination of the past with the goal of learning important information about the culture and customs of ancient or not so ancient peoples. Much archaeology in the early twenty-first century investigates the recent past, a sub-branch called "historical archaeology.

Archaeology is the study of the material remains of past human cultures. It is distinguished from other forms of inquiry by its method of study, excavation. Most archaeologists call this "digging. That sort of unscientific digging destroys the archaeological information.

Archaeological excavation requires the removal of material layer by layer to expose artifacts in place. The removed material is carefully sifted to find small artifactstiny animal bones, and other remains. Archaeologists even examine the soil in various layers for microscopic material, such as pollen. Excavations, in combination with surveys, may yield maps of a ruin or collections of artifacts. Time is important to archaeologists.

There is rarely enough time to complete the work, but of even greater interest is the time that has passed since the artifact was created. An important part of archaeology is the examination of how cultures change over time. It is therefore essential that the archaeologist is able to establish the age of the artifacts or other material remains and arrange them in a chronological sequence. The archaeologist must be able to distinguish between objects that were made at the same time and objects that were made at different times.

When objects that were made at different times are excavated, the archaeologist must be able to arrange them in a sequence from the oldest to the most recent. Before scientific dating techniques such as dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating were introduced to archaeology, the discipline was dominated by extensive discussions of the chronological sequence of events.

Most of those questions have now been settled and archaeologists have moved on to other issues. Scientific dating techniques have had a huge impact on archaeology. Archaeologists use many different techniques to determine the age of an object. Usually, several different techniques are applied to the same object. Relative dating arranges artifacts in a chronological sequence from oldest to most recent without reference to the actual date.

For example, by studying the decorations used on pottery, the types of materials used in the pottery, and the types and shapes of pots, it is often possible to arrange them into a sequence without knowing the actual date. In absolute datingthe age of an object is determined by some chemical or physical process without reference to a chronology.

Relative Dating Methods. The most common and widely used relative dating technique is stratigraphy. The principle of superposition borrowed from geology states that higher layers must be deposited on top of lower layers.

Thus, higher layers are more recent than lower layers. This only applies to undisturbed deposits. Rodent burrows, root action, and human activity can mix layers in a process known as bioturbation. However, the archaeologist can detect bioturbation and allow for its effects.

Discrete layers of occupation can often be determined. For example, Hisarlik, which is a hill in Turkeyis thought by some archaeologists to be the site of the ancient city of Troy. However, Hisarlik was occupied by many different cultures at various times both before and after the time of Troy, and each culture built on top of the ruins of the previous culture, often after violent conquest. Consequently, the layers in this famous archaeological site represent many different cultures.

An early excavator of Hisarlik, Heinrich Schleimann, inadvertently dug through the Troy layer into an earlier occupation and mistakenly assigned the gold artifacts he found there to Troy. Other sites have been continuously occupied by the same culture for a long time and the different layers represent gradual changes. In both cases, stratigraphy will apply. A chronology based on stratigraphy often can be correlated to layers in other nearby sites. For example, a particular type or pattern of pottery may occur in only one layer in an excavation.

If the same pottery type is found in another excavation nearby, it is safe to assume that the layers are the same age. Archaeologists rarely make these determinations on the basis of a single example. Usually, a set of related artifacts is used to determine the age of a layer. Seriation simply means ordering. This technique was developed by the inventor of modern archaeology, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie. Seriation is based on the assumption that cultural characteristics change over time.

For example, consider how automobiles have changed in the last 50 years a relatively short time in archaeology. Automobile manufacturers frequently introduce new styles about every year, so archaeologists thousands of years from now will have no difficulty identifying the precise date of a layer if the layer contains automobile parts.

Cultural characteristics tend to show a particular pattern over time. The characteristic is introduced into the culture for example, using a certain type of projectile point for hunting or wearing low-riding jeansbecomes progressively more popular, then gradually wanes in popularity. The method of seriation uses this distinctive pattern to arrange archaeological materials into a sequence. However, seriation only works when variations in a cultural characteristic are due to rapid and significant change over time.

It also works best when a characteristic is widely shared among many different members of a group. Even then, it can only be applied to a small geographic area, because there is also geographic variation in cultural characteristics.

For example, 50 years ago American automobiles changed every year while the Volkswagen Beetle hardly changed at all from year to year. Cross dating is also based on stratigraphy. It uses the principle that different archaeological sites will show a similar collection of artifacts in layers of the same age. Sir Flinders Petrie used this method to establish the time sequence of artifacts in Egyptian cemeteries by identifying which burials contained Greek pottery vessels.

These same Greek pottery styles could be associated with monuments in Greece whose construction dates were fairly well known. Since absolute dating techniques have become common, the use of cross dating has decreased significantly. Pollen grains also appear in archaeological layers. They are abundant and they survive very well in archaeological contexts. As climates change over time, the plants that grow in a region change as well.

People who examine pollen grains the study of which is known as pollen analysis can usually determine the genusand often the exact species producing a certain pollen type.

Archaeologists can then use this information to determine the relative ages of some sites and layers within sites. However, climates do not change rapidly, so this type of analysis is best for archaeological sites dating back to the last ice age.

Absolute Dating Methods. Absolute dating methods produce an actual date, usually accurate to within a few years. This date is established independent of stratigraphy and chronology. If a date for a certain layer in an excavation can be established using an absolute dating method, other artifacts in the same layer can safely be assigned the same age. Dendrochronology, also known as tree-ring dating, is the earliest form of absolute dating. This method was first developed by the American astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglas at the University of Arizona in the early s.

Douglas was trying to develop a correlation between climate variations and sunspot activitybut archaeologists quickly recognized its usefulness as a dating tool.

The technique was first applied in the American Southwest and later extended to other parts of the world.

Tree-ring dating is relatively simple. Trees add a new layer of cambium the layer right under the bark every year. The thickness of the layer depends on local weather and climate.

In years with plenty of rain, the layer will be thick and healthy.

Prehistoric dating methods

Over the lifetime of the tree, these rings accumulate, and the rings form a record of regional variation in climate that may extend back hundreds of years. Since all of the trees in a region experience the same climate variations, they will have similar growth patterns and similar tree ring patterns.

One tree usually does not cover a period sufficiently long to be archaeologically useful. However, patterns of tree ring growth have been built up by "overlapping" ring sequences from different trees so that the tree ring record extends back several thousand years in many parts of the world.

The process starts with examination of the growth ring patterns of samples from living trees. Then older trees are added to the sequence by overlapping the inner rings of a younger sample with the outer rings of an older sample. Older trees are recovered from old buildings, archaeological sites, peat bogs, and swamps. Eventually, a regional master chronology is constructed. When dendrochronology can be used, it provides the most accurate dates of any technique. In the American Southwest, the accuracy and precision of dendrochronology has enabled the development of one of the most.

Often events can be dated to within a decade. This precision has allowed archaeologists working in the American Southwest to reconstruct patterns of village growth and subsequent abandonment with a fineness of detail unmatched in most of the world.

Radiometric dating methods are more recent than dendrochronology. However, dendrochronology provides an important calibration technique for radiocarbon dating techniques. All radiometric-dating techniques are based on the well-established principle from physics that large samples of radioactive isotopes decay at precisely known rates. The rate of decay of a radioactive isotope is usually given by its half-life.

Timing is Everything - A Short Course in Archaeological Dating

The decay of any individual nucleus is completely random. The half-life is a measure of the probability that a given atom will decay in a certain time. The shorter the half-life, the more likely the atom will decay. This probability does not increase with time. If an atom has not decayed, the probability that it will decay in the future remains exactly the same. This means that no matter how many atoms are in a sample, approximately one-half will decay in one half-life.

The remaining atoms have exactly the same decay probability, so in another half-life, one half of the remaining atoms will decay. The amount of time required for one-half of a radioactive sample to decay can be precisely determined.

The particular radioisotope used to determine the age of an object depends on the type of object and its age. Radiocarbon is the most common and best known of radiometric dating techniques, but it is also possibly the most misunderstood. It was developed at the University of Chicago in by a group of American scientists led by Willard F.

Radiocarbon dating has had an enormous impact on archaeology. In the last 50 years, radiocarbon dating has provided the basis for a worldwide cultural chronology.

Recognizing the importance of this technique, the Nobel Prize committee awarded the Prize in Chemistry to Libby in The physics behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward.

Earth 's atmosphere is constantly bombarded with cosmic rays from outer space. Cosmic-ray neutrons collide with atoms of nitrogen in the upper atmosphere, converting them to atoms of radioactive carbon The carbon atom quickly combines with an oxygen molecule to form carbon dioxide. This radioactive carbon dioxide spreads throughout Earth's atmosphere, where it is taken up by plants along with normal carbon As long as the plant is alive, the relative amount ratio of carbon to carbon remains constant at about one carbon atom for every one trillion carbon atoms.

Some animals eat plants and other animals eat the plant-eaters. As long as they are alive, all living organisms have the same ratio of carbon to carbon as in the atmosphere because the radioactive carbon is continually replenished, either through photosynthesis or through the food animals eat. However, when the plant or animal dies, the intake of carbon stops and the ratio of carbon to carbon immediately starts to decrease.

The half-life of carbon is 5, years. After 5, years, about one-half of the carbon atoms will have decayed. After another 5, years, one-half of the remaining atoms will have decayed. So after 11, years, only one-fourth will remain. After 17, years, one-eighth of the original carbon will remain.

After 22, years, one-sixteenth will remain. Radiocarbon dating has become the standard technique for determining the age of organic remains those remains that contain carbon. There are many factors that must be taken into account when determining the age of an object. The best objects are bits of charcoal that have been preserved in completely dry environments. The worst candidates are bits of wood that have been saturated with sea water, since sea water contains dissolved atmospheric carbon dioxide that may throw off the results.

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Radiocarbon dating can be used for small bits of clothing or other fabric, bits of bone, baskets, or anything that contains organic material.

There are well over labs worldwide that do radiocarbon dating. In the early twenty-first century, the dating of objects up to about 10 half-lives, or up to about 50, years old, is possible. However, objects less than years old cannot be reliably dated because of the widespread burning of fossil fuels, which began in the nineteenth century, and the production of carbon from atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the s and s.

Another problem with radiocarbon dating is that the production of carbon in the atmosphere has not been constant, due to variation in solar activity.

For example, in the s, solar activity dropped a phenomenon called the "Maunder Minimum"so carbon production also decreased during this period. To achieve the highest level of accuracy, carbon dates must be calibrated by comparison to dates obtained from dendrochronology. Calibration of Radiocarbon Dates. Samples of Bristlecone pine, a tree with a very long life span, have been dated using both dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating.

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The results do not agree, but the differences are consistent. That is, the radiocarbon dates were always wrong by the same number of years. Consequently, tree-ring chronologies have been used to calibrate radiocarbon dates to around 12, years ago.

When radiocarbon dating was first put into use, it was decided that dates would always be reported as B. That way, dates reported in magazine articles and books do not have to be adjusted as the years pass. So if a lab determines that an object has a radiocarbon age of 1, years inits age will be given as B.

Calibrated dates are given using the actual date, such as c. Potassium-Argon Dating. If an object is too old to be dated by radiocarbon dating, or if it contains no organic material, other methods must be used. One of these is potassium-argon dating. All naturally occurring rocks contain potassium.

Some of the potassium in rocks is the radioactive isotope potassium Potassium gradually decays to the stable isotope argon, which is a gas. When the rock is melted, as in a volcano, any argon gas trapped in the rock escapes.

When the rock cools, the argon will begin to build up. So this method can be used to measure the age of any volcanic rock, fromyears up to around 5 billion years old.

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This method is not widely used in archaeology, since most archaeological deposits are not associated with volcanic activity. However, Louis and Mary Leakey successfully used the method to determine the ages of fossils in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania by examining rocks from lava flows above and below the fossils.

They were able to establish an absolute chronology for humans and human ancestors extending back two million years. At Laetolli, in Tanzania, volcanic ash containing early hominid footprints was dated by this method at 3.

Other Methods. Uranium is present in most rocks. This isotope of uranium spontaneously undergoes fission. The fission fragments have a lot of energy, and they plow through the rock, leaving a track that can be made visible by treating the rock. So by counting fission tracks, the age of the rock can be determined. Like potassium-argon datingthis can only be used to determine the age of the rock, not the age of the artifact itself.

Thermoluminescence is a recently developed technique that uses the property of some crystals to "store" light. Sometimes an electron will be knocked out of its position in a crystal and will "stick" somewhere else in the crystal. These displaced electrons will accumulate over time. If the sample is heated, the electrons will fall back to their normal positions, emitting a small flash of light.

By measuring the light emitted, the time that has passed since the artifact was heated can be determined.

Mar 17,   Dating refers to the archaeological tool to date artefacts and sites, and to properly construct history. All methods can be classified into two basic categories: a) Relative dating methods: Based on a discipline of geology called stratigraphy, rock layers are used to decipher the sequence of historical geological Johnblack. Relative dating determines the age of artifacts or site, as older or younger or the same age as others, but does not produce precise dates. Absolute dating, methods that produce specific chronological dates for objects and occupations, was not available to archaeology until well into the 20th century. Principles of Prehistoric Archaeology. Chronology: Relative and Absolute Dating methods. The emergence of man through the process of biological and cultural evolution is a story of long span of time. For the archaeologist and the prehistorian who deals with that long history of man, time is the most important consideration.

This method should prove to be especially useful in determining the age of ceramics, rocks that have been used to build fire rings, and samples of chert and flint that have been deliberately heated to make them easier to flake into a projectile point. Science continues to develop new methods to determine the age of objects. As our knowledge of past chronologies improves, archaeologists will be better able to understand how cultures change over time, and how different cultures interact with each other.

As a result, this knowledge will enable us to achieve a progressively better understanding of our own culture. Baillie, M. London U. Taylor, R. Radiocarbon Dating : An Archaeological Perspective. Orlando, FL: Academic Press, Long, and R.

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Wood, Michael. In Search of the Trojan War. New York : New American Library, Richmond, Elliot " Dating Techniques. Richmond, Elliot "Dating Techniques. Dating techniques are procedures used by scientists to determine the age of an object or a series of events. The two main types of dating methods are relative and absolute.

Dating techniques are procedures used by scientists to determine the age of rocks, fossils, or artifacts. Relative dating methods tell only if one sample is older or younger than another; absolute dating methods provide an approximate date in years. The latter have generally been available only since Many absolute dating techniques take.

Relative dating methods are used to determine only if one sample is older or younger than another. Absolute dating methods are used to determine an actual date in years for the age of an object. Before the advent of absolute dating methods in the twentieth century, nearly all dating was relative.

The main relative dating method is stratigraphy pronounced stra-TI-gra-feewhich is the study of layers of rocks or the objects embedded within those layers. This method is based on the assumption which nearly always holds true that deeper layers of rock were deposited earlier in Earth 's history, and thus are older than more shallow layers.

The successive layers of rock represent successive intervals of time. Since certain species of animals existed on Earth at specific times in history, the fossils or remains of such animals embedded within those successive layers of rock also help scientists determine the age of the layers.

Similarly, pollen grains released by seed-bearing plants became fossilized in rock layers. If a certain kind of pollen is found in an archaeological site, scientists can check when the plant that produced that pollen lived to determine the relative age of the site. Absolute dating methods are carried out in a laboratory.

The most widely used and accepted form of absolute dating is radioactive decay dating. Radioactive decay dating. Radioactive decay refers to the process in which a radioactive form of an element is converted into a nonradioactive product at a regular rate. The nucleus of every radioactive element such as radium and uranium spontaneously disintegrates over time, transforming itself into the nucleus of an atom of a different element. In the process of disintegration, the atom gives off radiation energy emitted in the form of waves.

Hence the term radioactive decay. Each element decays at its own rate, unaffected by external physical conditions. By measuring the amount of original and transformed atoms in an object, scientists can determine the age of that object. Cosmic rays: Invisible, high-energy particles that constantly bombard Earth from all directions in space. Dendrochronology: Also known as tree-ring dating, the science concerned with determining the age of trees by examining their growth rings.

Half-life: Measurement of the time it takes for one-half of a radioactive substance to decay. Radioactive decay: The predictable manner in which a population of atoms of a radioactive element spontaneously disintegrate over time. The age of the remains of plants, animals, and other organic material can be determined by measuring the amount of carbon contained in that material.

Carbon, a radioactive form of the element carbon, is created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays invisible, high-energy particles that constantly bombard Earth from all directions in space. When carbon falls to Earth, it is absorbed by plants. These plants are eaten by animals who, in turn, are eaten by even larger animals.

Eventually, the entire ecosystem community of plants and animals of the planet, including humans, is filled with a concentration of carbon As long as an organism is alive, the supply of carbon is replenished. When the organism dies, the supply stops, and the carbon contained in the organism begins to spontaneously decay into nitrogen The time it takes for one-half of the carbon to decay a period called a half-life is 5, years.

By measuring the amount of carbon remaining, scientists can pinpoint the exact date of the organism's death. The range of conventional radiocarbon dating is 30, to 40, years. With sensitive instrumentation, this range can be extended to 70, years. In addition to the radiocarbon dating technique, scientists have developed other dating methods based on the transformation of one element into another.

These include the uranium-thorium method, the potassium-argon method, and the rubidium-strontium method. Thermoluminescence pronounced ther-moeloo-mi-NES-ence dating is very useful for determining the age of pottery. The older the pottery, the brighter the light that will be emitted.

Using thermoluminescence, pottery pieces as old asyears can be dated with precision.

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