There are several dating methods that help archaeologists figure out how old objects are. In fact, there are so many that it would be impossible to describe them all in one article. Hence, this post will discuss some of the most widely-used dating methods — stratigraphy, typology, seriation, and radiocarbon dating — and we will cover the rest in subsequent articles. There are two overarching classes of dating methods: relative and absolute. Relative dating methods cannot determine the exact age of an object, but only which finds are older or younger than others.
How archaeologists determine the date of ancient sites and artifacts
New archaeological dating techniques – Black Taffy
By: Jessika Toothman. Prior to the development of radiocarbon dating , it was difficult to tell when an archaeological artifact came from. Unless something was obviously attributable to a specific year -- say a dated coin or known piece of artwork -- then whoever discovered it had to do quite a bit of guesstimating to get a proper age for the item. The excavator might employ relative dating, using objects located stratigraphically read: buried at the same depth close to each other, or he or she might compare historical styles to see if there were similarities to a previous find. But by using these imprecise methods, archeologists were often way off. Fortunately, Willard Libby, a scientist who would later win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, developed the process known as radiocarbon dating in the late s. It's still the most commonly used method today.
Revolutionary new method for dating pottery sheds new light on prehistoric past
Archaeological pottery has been used to date archaeological sites for more than a century, and from the Roman period onwards can offer quite precise dating. But further back in time, for example at the prehistoric sites of the earliest Neolithic farmers, accurate dating becomes more difficult because the kinds of pottery are often less distinctive and there are no coins or historical records to give context. This is where radiocarbon dating, also known as 14C-dating, comes to the rescue. Until now, archaeologists had to radiocarbon date bones or other organic materials buried with the pots to understand their age.
Dating methods are the means by which archaeologists establish chronology. The more dating methods we use to construct a chronology, the more likely it is that the chronology will be reliable. The most universal dating method in archaeology is a relative dating method: dating by association. At it simplest, this means recognising an artefact or structure as belonging to a known type of a particular date.