Examples of absolute dating in archaeology

This method, however, has some disadvantages. In such cases subjective element cannot be ruled out. But, for a single culture site the method is quite reliable. Quite convincing dates are sometimes arrived at by importing parallels from other contemporaneous cultures. This parallelism is formed due to trade relations, particularly wehen trade followed in both directions. For example, beads closely resembling those from the temple repositories at Cnoss and dating from C. C were found in a late context Period V at Harappa. This closely agrees with the fact that the seals from Indus Valley style from Ur, Kish and Tell Asmar and other sites fall within the range of B.

By noting the association of these beads it has been possible to trace a archaeological datum line across Indian sub-continent and Mesopotamia. When a group or type of objects are found together under circumstances suggesting contemporanity they are said to be associated. It is nearly always association with other phenomena that gives a first clue as to the use, the age and chronological attribution of a potential datum, but age at least may sometimes be inferred from position in a geological deposit or a layer of peat.

Once a type has been classified by the aid of its context further specimen of the same type, even when found in isolation, can be assigned their place in terms of dates. Association in simplicity can be illustrated by an example, at the port of Arikamedu near Pondicherry. Antiquities and potteries of Roman origin were found in association with the finds of Indian origin. With the aid of these dated imports it was possible to date the associated Indian objects to the first two centuries A.

Sometimes dates are also obtained with the assistance of astronomy. Clay tablets found in West Asia contain inscriptional evidence with regard to the occurrence of a solar eclipse. Specialists in the field of astronomical research placed this solar eclipse as on 15 th June B.

Dating Techniques In Archaeology

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.


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  • Dating Methods!

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. Libby in , which 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 sent for radicarbon dating should be sufficient enough to give proper results.

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Relative Vs. Absolute Dating: The Ultimate Face-off

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. How to collect samples: While collecting samples for radio carbon dating we should take utmost care, and should observe the following principles and methods.

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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. 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. This approach helps to order events chronologically but it does not provide the absolute age of an object expressed in years. Relative dating includes different techniques, but the most commonly used are soil stratigraphy analysis and typology. On the other hand, absolute dating includes all methods that provide figures about the real estimated age of archaeological objects or occupations.

These methods usually analyze physicochemical transformation phenomena whose rate are known or can be estimated relatively well. This is the only type of techniques that can help clarifying the actual age of an object. Absolute dating methods mainly include radiocarbon dating, dendrochronology and thermoluminescence.

Stratigraphy Inspired by geology , stratigraphy uses the principle of the superposition of strata which suggests that, in a succession of undisturbed SOILS , the upper horizons are newer than the lower ones. Generally, each stratum is isolated in a separate chronological unit that incorporates artifacts.

Relative and Absolute Dating

However, this method is sometimes limited because the reoccupation of an area may require excavation to establish the foundation of a building, for instance, that goes through older layers. In this case, even if the foundation of the building is found in the same stratigraphic level as the previous occupation, the two events are not contemporary.

Stratigraphic dating remains very reliable when it comes to dating objects or events in undisturbed stratigraphic levels. For example, the oldest human remains known to date in Canada, found at Gore Creek , have been dated using soil stratification. The bones were buried under and are therefore older a layer of ash that resulted from a volcanic eruption dating back to years BP Before Present; "present" indicates c. Subsequently, radiocarbon dating, an absolute dating technique, was used to date the bones directly and provided a date of BP, showing how useful the combined used of relative and absolute dating can be.

Moreover, stratigraphic dating is sometimes based on the objects that are found within the soil strata. Indeed, some items whose exact or approximate age is known are called "diagnostic artifacts. Their presence on archaeological sites is used to date the soil layers and the objects and events they are associated with and thus contributes to refine the chronology of sites. Typology Typology is a method that compares reference objects in order to classify them according to their similarity or dissimilarity and link them to a specific context or period.


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  4. Dating Techniques!
  5. This technique is frequently used when it is impossible to make use of absolute dating methods; it generally allows archaeologists to identify the period to which a cultural site or object belongs, without specifying the date of occupation. This method is primarily applied to projectile points and ceramic vessels. These present many characteristics that are used for comparing them, such as morphology and raw materials in the case of stone tools, and decorative techniques and motifs in the case of ceramics. Radiocarbon Dating Radiocarbon dating is the most widely used dating technique in archaeology.

    It relies on a natural phenomenon that is the foundation of life on earth. Indeed, carbon 14 14C is formed from the reaction caused by cosmic rays that convert nitrogen into carbon 14 and then carbon dioxide by combining with carbon 12 12C and carbon 13 13C , which are stable carbon isotopes.

    Following the death of an organism, any exchange ceases and the carbon 14, which is radioactive and therefore unstable, slowly begins to disintegrate at a known rate half-life of years, ie, after this period only half of the total carbon 14 present at the time of death remains.

    A sample requires 10 to 20 grams of matter and usually consists of charred organic material, mainly charcoal, but bones see zooarchaeology and shells can also be dated using this technique. An initial reading dates the specimen which is then calibrated by considering this date and its correspondence with the measurable level of carbon 14 stored over time in the growth rings of certain tree species, including redwood and pine bristol.

    Subsequently, the calibration of that date provides a time interval where the event or object being dated can be situated eg, AD. Radiocarbon dating, however, can only be used for dating objects that are less than 50 years. Dendrochronology Dendrochronology is a method that studies the rings of tree trunks to define characteristic sequences by analyzing the morphology of growth rings for a given species.

    This method is based on the principle that the variation in tree growth from one year to another is influenced by the degree of precipitation, sunshine, temperature, soil type and all ambient conditions and that, consequently, reference patterns can be distinguished. Several sets of rings from different trees are matched to build an average sequence.