week 4 Notes.docx - Can We Date That One of the most common jokes in the world—archaeologists will date any old thing*Groan But of course it’s true

week 4 Notes.docx - Can We Date That One of the most common...

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Can We Date That? One of the most common jokes in the world—archaeologists will date any old thing! *Groan*. But of course, it’s true. Dating methods are extremely important to the process of giving sites and artifacts meaning. When were they built, made, used, abandoned? What came before versus after? It’s all part of understanding context, and also a huge scientific element to archaeological research. You may begin by reviewing a brief slideshow below that describes the general differences among a few major dating techniques. Keep in mind there are more techniques described in your textbook. What should you know about each technique? Be sure you know the answers to these questions: Is the dating technique relative (puts things in chronological order) or absolute (assigns an actual date)? What type of material is needed to get a date? How long of a time period does this technique cover? What are the principles behind the technique? Stratigraphy Further Explored By now you should have a basic idea about how stratigraphy works, including the Law of Superposition. Just like the items that accumulate in your trash bin, things on the bottom are older (deposited first) than things on the top (deposited last). But how easy is it to analyze archaeological strata? Let’s take a look at some of the stratigraphy back at the Cooper’s Ferry prehistoric site (1:42): Notice how Dr. Loren Davis first shows us the local stratigraphy, with visible layers of light volcanic ash. He mentions that these layers can be used for dating purposes. He is not just talking about the deposition sequence, he's also referring to the fact that the volcanic ash layer can be dated. Question: do you recall what dating technique uses volcanic products? Next, he shows us the stratigraphy of an excavation unit, pointing out a few different layers. Can you tell the difference among these deposits? Many times it takes an expert eye to notice changes in stratigraphy, especially when you are excavating down through it. Differences among the strata can be much more noticeable in the profile, or side view of the excavation. This is why a controlled excavation is so important! We know that stratigraphy of more complex sites can be considerably more...complex. Carefully look at the image below. Generally speaking, the Law of Superposition applies to many of the different layers. But look at how many of the features, such as walls, pits, and ditches are dug into
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the layers beneath them. Although the 19th century wall extends into a medieval layer, it's much younger. Archaeologists have to contend with this when interpreting strata, being very careful not to make mistakes!
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