Absolute and relative dating in archaeology

According to Renfrew and Bahn, “stratigraphy is the study of stratification- the laying down or depositing of strata one above the other.” (Renfrew and Bahn 2008, 122).

This basically involves ordering things into sequences.

Although the importance of the different dating methods may outweigh each other, the all are very important to the study of archaeology as a whole.

This essay shall focus on the importance of radio carbon dating, potassium argon dating, seriation and stratigraphy to the archaeological study.

Archaeology can be defined as “the scientific study of the human past, of ancient human behaviour, from the earliest times right up to the present.”(Fagan, 2006) .

A succession of layers should provide a relative chronological sequence from the earliest (the bottom layer) to the latest (top), as seen in figure one.

It’s important to note that stratigraphy involves the Law of Superposition.

The style of the artifact and its archaeological location stratigraphically are required to arrive at a relative date.

The limit to relative dating is that it cannot provide an accurate year or a specific date of use.

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