What Types of Dating are There?
Now lets make things clear – we are talking archaeology dating here!!
Below is a quick outline of all the main methods of dating used by archaeologists, or that assist archaeology in dating the artefacts that are uncovered.
Absolute Dating – Where a definite date, or range of dates is given. These are the methods used;
Historical records and calendars – The portion of our past that has been recorded or written down can be used to date items and places mentioned in them.
Dendrochronology – Tree ring dating. This method looks at the new growth of trees each year and using a large database of records enables a piece of wood taken from a site to be matched against the database and a date range given.
Radiocarbon Dating 14C – Measures the amount of carbon isotope 14 in organic matter. This carbon deteriorates over time and by measuring the amount of carbon in an artefact you can tell how old it is.
Potassium Argon (AR) – This measures the amount of organ isotopes and the radio active decay of uranium. Mainly used for teeth and eggshells.
Uranium Series – This measures the radioactive decay of uranium and mostly used for dating teeth and eggshells.
Fission Track – This measures the structural changes in minerals by measuring the uranium within them. Mostly in rocks, minerals and glasses.
Thermoluminescence (TL) – Measures the heat from trapped electrons within an artefact and used widely with pottery and ceramics.
Optical Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) – Measures the light from trapped electrons within an artefact and used widely with pottery and ceramics.
Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) – Used mostly for teeth by grinding down a portion of the tooth enamel to reveal the hydroxyapatite that has accumulated once the item is covered up or buried.
Obsidian Hydration – Measures the amount of water in obsidian. Once it is fractures it starts to absorb water in an hydration level, and this is measured.
Relative Dating – uses the method of relationships to date finds. This is done is through stratigraphy and typology.
Stratigraphy – Looking at the position of artefacts in the ground, where they are found; how far down they are; and their relationship to other items found in the same level at the same time. This process is called Stratigraphy
For example, if a find is lower down in the ground than the Medieval layer, but not as far down as the Roman layer, then Relative dating would place it at the period in between – the Early Medieval period (formally called the Dark Ages).
Typology – Different time periods in history had different types of artefacts. A common one to look at is the orange Samian Ware pottery produced by the Romans.
We know that the Romans used different styles and designs on their Samian Ware at different periods. Therefore, when we uncover some, we can look at the type and style of design and place it into its relative time sequence.
Items that can be dated using the Relative method include ceramics, pottery, and stone tools.
Wow! That is a lot to take in and learn – but don’t worry, you only need to know the basics, unless of course you want to be one of the really clever people that operate these machines and do the dating yourself!!
Archaeology Wow!! – Brodgar Boy, Orkney
Brodgar Boy is the name given to a figure that was found at the Neolithic site, the Ness Of Brodgar, in the Orkney Islands north of Scotland, in 2011. The Ness of Brodgar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Brodgar Boy is made of baked clay and the original piece measures 30mm long. Soon, excavators discovered the rest of him nearby and he is thought to be one of the earliest representations of the human form in Britain, dating from c.3,500 BC.
The discovery was made in one of the last buildings to be constructed and had not been handled much.
The Ness of Brodgar is a nationally important site and excavations are ongoing. The site will be described in the site section of the blog later next year!
Archaeological Site Guide – Site of the Battle of Zama, Tunisia
The Battle of Zama was the final battle in the 2nd Punic Wars and saw Hannibal defeated by the Roman general Scipio Africanus.
The battle occurred on the 19th October 202 BC 130 km southwest of Tunis. Hannibal had the bigger force of 36,000 infantry (made up of mercenaries, local people and the veterans of his previous campaigns against the Romans), 4,000 Numidian cavalry and 80 war elephants. The Roman force was made up of 29,000 infantry soldiers of the Roman Army and 6,100 Numidian cavalry.
Hannibal set his force up in two lines and Scipio set his up in three – the armies facing each other over the battlefield. Scipio had decided to trick the elephants and their handlers by placing his infantry in close blocks, so when the elephants charged, the blocks separated and the elephants ran straight through them, causing little or no damage to the soldiers.
Hannibal lost the battle. 20,000 of his men died and 20,000 were taken prisoner. Only 2,500 Romans from Scipio’s army died. Following the battle the Phoenicians surrendered their war ships to Roman and gave them their lands in Spain and the islands they held in the Mediterranean.
A great and decisive battle between two great cultures and their armies.
Great Books to Read…….
Great Web Pages to Look At…….
Activity – Word Search 7 November 2014