Archaeological Dating Methods: A Case Study Case Study by grhine

Archaeological Dating Methods: A Case Study
This paper discusses four major methods of archaeological dating: stratigraphy, dendrochronology, obsidian hydration dating, and radiocarbon dating.
# 4928 | 2,380 words | 15 sources | MLA | 2002 | CA
Published on May 30, 2002 in Archaeology (New Discoveries) , Anthropology (General) , Archaeology (General)

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The paper introduces archaeology, and explains that the concept of dating is central to the science of archaeology. Two broad categories of dating, relative and absolute, are introduced, and four major specific types of dating are presented to the reader; stratigraphy, dendrochronology, obsidian hydration dating, and radiocarbon dating. Each of the four methods are discussed in great detail, each with a closing paragraph devoted to the underlying problems with that particular method. For example, the section on stratigraphy begins with a brief history of the method itself, and introduces such concepts as the law of superposition, temporal sequences of data within stratified deposits, context evaluation, and determining age through the relative position of superimposed artifacts. The negatives of stratigraphy are then discussed, and include deformation, overlapping and reverse stratigraphy, and the method is evaluated on the whole. This format is then applied to the other three types of dating discussed. Finally, a concluding paragraph states that although the four types of dating discussed are infinitely valuable to archaeologists all over the world, there are still problems associated with each that need to be accounted for when using them to address the age of fossilized remains and other artifacts.

From the Paper:

"Archaeology is the study of past human cultures, and archaeologists must uncover and interpret material remains in order to reconstruct past ways of life. To understand the purposes of these remains, Archaeologists have the task of constructing a chronology of prehistory, using various dating methods. "Without knowing the age of materials, little can be said about the activity that made them part of the site (David L. Webster, Susan Toby Evans & William T. Sanders, 1993: 128)." Dating is defined as the placement in time of events relative to one another or to any established scale of temporal measurement (Jeffrey S. Dean, 1981: 375). Dating methods used by Archaeologist incorporate the scientific method and have the advantages of objectification, application to isolated cultural sequences, and an expanded span of human prehistory for which an absolute chronology can be built (Keith Brannigan, 1974: 100-101). Scientific methods of dating are invaluable for the prehistoric periods and have revolutionized the archaeologists' ideas about the absolute chronology of the prehistoric culture sequence (Brannigan, 1974: 101), yet each of these scientific methods has many difficulties. Dating techniques fall into two categories relative and absolute and include the following: seriation, ceramic dating, potassium argon dating, thermoluminescence dating, archaeomagnetic dating, fission track dating, stratigraphy, dendrochronology, obsidian hydration dating, and radiocarbon dating. This paper will discuss the latter four methods, with an emphasis on the shortcomings of each."

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