Dating methods used in archaeology

The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.

The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.

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For a long period in the 20th century Egyptian and Near Eastern chronology seemed to be the earliest of absolute chronologies, and imports from these areas were used to reconstruct the chronology of European prehistory.

With the introduction of objective quantifiable methods such as dendrochronology and Carbon-14 dating, over the past half century, European and North American archaeology have developed independent and more reliable chronologies, that often make it possible to date more precisely than in Egypt. For Egypt absolute year dates can only be established back to the beginning of the Late Period, from links to Greek chronology, and then from Assyrian king-lists and other Near Eastern sources, back to the Ramesside Period (still debated). The Egyptians dated by the year of reign of the king on the throne (for example 'year 3 of king X').

Typological dating may foster the tendency to assume that each step in development is of about the same time length, but this does not need to be the case in reality.

All living organic materials contain Carbon-14 atoms in a constant number.

Archaeologists use many different techniques to determine the age of a particular artifact, site, or part of a site.


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