32402f05 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 5 Absolute...

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Introduction to Archaeology: Class 5 Absolute dating: Tree rings and radiocarbon Copyright Bruce Owen 2002 Two kinds of dating: relative and absolute Relative dating puts things in order, older to younger, without specifying dates in years; we'll look at these later Absolute dating gives ages in years. In theory, this is better than relative dating, because we know both how old things are, and can put them in order Unfortunately, most “absolute” dating methods give slightly fuzzy dates (radiocarbon dates are usually plus or minus 40 years or more), so sometimes we can get the order more precisely by lower-tech, relative methods. also, most absolute dating methods are expensive and involve sending samples to a lab and waiting for the results Some kinds of absolute dates: Historical dates (coins, dated inscriptions, etc.) not as simple as you might think for reasons that apply to all kinds of absolute dates, not just historical ones the key is to have a clear understanding of archaeological associations of artifacts, features, activities, and dates Thomas throws in issues about associations while covering other things, but I think it is important to deal with them head on, right away and historical dates give us a clear, simple case in which to do it. say we excavate a historical burial and find a coin in it dated 1827. was the person buried in 1827? not necessarily. First, we have to feel sure that the coin (or any absolute date) is truly associated with the rest of the burial activity that we want to date that is, that the coin got into the burial as part of the burial event, not some other time we should try to rule out the possibility that the association is false due to disturbance that introduced artifacts after the event of interest maybe the person was buried back in 1500 and in 1830, someone looking for treasure dug into the burial and accidentally dropped the 1827 coin into it. or in 1830 a gopher tunneled through the burial, and someone accidentally dropped the 1827 coin down the hole we can try to rule out disturbance by carefully observing the soil and the positions of the artifacts while excavating that is, we can say "we looked carefully for evidence of rodent burrows but did not see any" disturbance can introduce artifacts of any age
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Introduction to Archaeology F 2002 / Owen: Absolute dating: Tree rings and radiocarbon p. 2 the example above has an artifact that is much younger than the burial falling down the gopher hole into to but it could just as well be a paleolithic spearpoint that falls into the gopher hole that is, something much older than the burial the point is that an unrelated artifact gets added to the context after the fact such artifacts are not really associated with the event of interest; they have nothing to do with it at all, and tell us nothing about when the event happened we should try to rule out the possibility that the association is false due to redeposition of earlier material
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32402f05 - Introduction to Archaeology: Class 5 Absolute...

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