Archeology excavation dating techniques
Clay-clay left behind by the melting glaciers when the European Ice Age came to an end. The application of this method to archaeology depends, obviously, on the use in antiquity of old datable trees in the construction of houses and buildings.
Detailed petrological analysis of the material of Neolithic polished stone axes have enabled archaeologists to establish the location of prehistoric ax factories and trade routes.But even in properly observed and recorded stratigraphic levels there is often doubt, and the question arises: are all the artifacts and human remains found in the same level contemporary?Is it possible that there could have been later intrusions that have been difficult to distinguish in the field?Following the revolutionary discovery of radioactive carbon dating, other physical techniques of absolute dating were developed, among them The last and most important task of the archaeologist is to transmute his interpretation of the material remains he studies into historical judgments.When he is dealing with medieval and modern history he is often doing no more than adding to knowledge already available from documentary sources: but even so his contribution is often of great importance; for example, in relation to the growth and development of towns and the study of deserted medieval villages.Aside from cross dating, the archaeologist faced with material in a site having no literate chronological evidence of its own has two other ways of dating his material. Relative dating merely means the relation of the date of anything found to the date of other things found in its immediate neighbourhood.
As has already been described, this method also plays a part in cross dating. The archaeologist observes the accumulation of deposits in a gravel pit, a peat bog, in the construction of a barrow, or in accumulated settlements in a tell, and, like the geologists who introduced the principles of stratigraphy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, he can see the succession of layers in the site and can then establish the chronology of different levels of layers relative to each other.
An excavation site will also be visited, where students will see the techniques learned in practice.
A short practical session will also take place in January, in which the use of a database will be practised. Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory.
Thus, absolute dates could be established for artifacts from the Late Paleolithic Period, the whole of the Mesolithic Period, or Middle Stone Age, and much of the Early Neolithic Period. Because the rate at which this activity decreases in time is known, the approximate age of the material can be determined by comparing it to carbon-14 activity in presently living organic matter.
There have been problems and uncertainties about the application of the radioactive carbon method, but, although it is less than perfect, it has given archaeology a new and absolute chronology that goes back 40,000 years.
Excavation often seems to the general public the main and certainly the most glamorous aspect of archaeology; but fieldwork and excavation represent only a part of the archaeologist’s work.