Methods of dating archaeological evidence

The extent of documentation varied considerably in 'historical' cultures and the information that survives is determined by a variety of factors.If a context containing burnt debris and broken artefacts is excavated on a site from a historical period, it is tempting to search the local historical framework for references to warfare or a disaster in the region, and to date the excavated context accordingly.These remains include the fossils (preserved bones) of humans, food remains, the ruins of buildings, and human artifactsitems such as tools, pottery, and jewelry.From their studies, archaeologists attempt to reconstruct past ways of life.Organic materials, such as wood and bone, can easily be dated using radiocarbon techniques, but they aren't always available or reliable.Wood tends to decompose over time, and animals often dig up bones and move them around a site.

But unlike historythe study of written records such as government archives, personal correspondence, and business documentsmost of the information gathered in archaeology comes from the study of objects lying on or under the ground Archaeologists refer to the vast store of information about the human past as the archaeological record.

Ancient sites in England, Malta, and elsewhere turned out to be older than once thought.

With this new information, scientists were able to paint a more accurate picture of European prehistory. An absolute dating method tells the excavator the specific date of the material being studied (plus or minus a margin of error).

Archaeologists have long dated sites by the visual appearance of pottery fragments found around the site.

The new analytical technique will allow archaeologists to more accurately determine the age of pottery and, by extension, the age of associated artifacts and sites.