Dating Methods and Chronology - Flashcards

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Dating Methods and Chronology - Flashcards
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From Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice (4th edition), 2006, Renfrew and Bahn, Thames & Hudson
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  1. Relative dating
    The determination of chronological sequence without recourse to a fixed time scale; e.g. the arrangement of artifacts in a typological sequence, or seriation (cf. absolute dating).

    (Chapter 4 p. 121)
  2. Stratigraphy
    The laying down or depositing of strata or layers (also called deposits) one above the other. A succession of layers should provide a relative chronological sequence, with the earliest at the bottom and the latest at the top.

    (Chapter 4 p. 122)
  3. Typology
    The systematic organization of artifacts into types on the basis of shared attributes.

    (Chapter 4 p. 124)
  4. Seriation
    A relative dating technique based on the chronological ordering of a group of artifacts or assemblages, where the most similar are placed adjacent to each other in the series. Two types of seriation can be recognized, frequency seriation and contextual seriation.

    (Chapter 4 p. 126)
  5. Contextual seriation
    A method of relative dating pioneered by Flinders Petrie in the 19th century, in which artifacts are arranged according to the frequencies of their co-occurrence in specific contexts (usually burials).

    (Chapter 4 p. 126)
  6. Frequency seriation
    A relative dating method which relies principally on measuring changes in the proportional abundance, or frequency, observed among finds (e.g. counts of tool types, or of ceramic fabrics).

    (Chapter 4 p. 127)
  7. Battleship curves
    A phenomenon that when represented diagrammatically produces a shape like a battleship viewed from above.

    (Chapter 4 p. 127)
  8. Glottochronology
    A controversial method of assessing the temporal divergence of two languages based on changes of vocabulary ( lexicostatistics ), and expressed as an arithmetic formula.

    (Chapter 4 p. 129)
  9. Lexicostatistics
    The study of linguistic divergence between two languages, based on changes in a list of common vocabulary terms and the sharing of common root words (see also glottochronology).

    (Chapter 4 p. 129)
  10. Deep-sea cores
    Cores drilled from the sea bed that provide the most coherent record of climate changes on a worldwide scale.

    (Chapter 4 p. 130-31)
  11. Ice cores
    Borings taken from the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, containing layers of compacted ice useful for reconstructing paleoenvironments and as a method of absolute dating.

    (Chapter 4 p. 130-31)
  12. Palynology
    The analysis of fossil pollen as an aid to the reconstruction of past vegetation and climates.

    (Chapter 4 p. 131)
  13. Faunal dating
    A method of relative dating based on observing the evolutionary changes in particular species of mammals, so as to form a rough chronological sequence.

    (Chapter 4 p. 132)
  14. Absolute dating
    The determination of age with reference to a specific time scale, such as a fixed calendrical system; also referred to as chronometric dating.

    (Chapter 4 p. 133)
  15. Maya Calendar
    A method employed by the Maya of measuring the passage of time, comprising two separate calendar systems: (1) the Calendar Round, used for everyday purposes; (2) the Long Count, used for the reckoning of historical dates.

    (Chapter 4 pp. 134-35)
  16. Terminus post quem
    Latin term meaning "date after which".

    (Chapter 4 p. 136)
  17. Terminus ante quem
    Latin term meaning "date before which".

    (Chapter 4 p. 136)
  18. Cross dating
    Method by which archaeologists compare a society's exports and imports of objects to extend chronological linkages.

    (Chapter 4 p. 136)
  19. Varves
    Fine layers of alluvium sediment deposited in glacial lakes. Their annual deposition makes them a useful source of dating.

    (Chapter 4 p. 137)
  20. Dendrochronology
    The study of tree-ring patterns; annual variations in climatic conditions which produce differential growth can be used both as a measure of environmental change, and as the basis for a chronology.

    (Chapter 4 p. 138)
  21. Floating chronology
    An early historical chronology that has not been linked with our own calendar.

    (Chapter 4 p. 134, 140)
  22. Principle of radioactive decay
    The regular process by which radioactive isotopes break down into their decay products with a half-life which is specific to the isotope in question (see also radiocarbon dating).

    (Chapter 4 p. 142)
  23. Radiocarbon dating
    An absolute dating method that measures the decay of the radioactive isotope of carbon ( 14 C ) in organic material (see half-life).

    (Chapter 4 p. 141)
  24. Calibration
    The process of converting the radiocarbon age of a sample into calendar years.

    (Chapter 4 p. 143)
  25. Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS)
    AMS counts the atoms of radiocarbon (carbon-14) directly, disregarding their radioactivity. The minimum sample size is 5-10 mg - thus enabling precious organic materials to be sampled and directly dated.

    (Chapter 4 p. 143)
  26. Uranium-series dating
    A dating method based on the radioactive decay of isotopes of uranium. It has proved particularly useful for the period before 50,000 years ago, which lies outside the time range of radiocarbon dating.

    (Chapter 4 p. 150)
  27. Fission-track dating
    A dating method based on the operation of a radioactive clock, the spontaneous fission of an isotope of uranium present in a wide range of rocks and minerals. As with potassium-argon dating , with whose time range it overlaps, the method gives useful dates from rocks adjacent to archaeological material.

    (Chapter 4 p. 152)
  28. Half-life
    The time taken for half the quantity of a radioactive isotope in a sample to decay (see also radioactive decay).

    (Chapter 4 p. 142)
  29. Potassium-argon dating
    A method used to date rocks up to thousands of millions of years old, though it is restricted to volcanic material no more recent than c . 100,000 years old. One of the most widely used methods in the dating of early hominid sites in Africa.

    (Chapter 4 p. 149)
  30. Olduvai Gorge
    The earliest toolkits, comprising flake and pebble tools, used by hominids in the Olduvai Gorge, East Africa.

    (Chapter 4 p. 149)
  31. Thermoluminescence dating
    A dating technique that relies indirectly on radioactive decay, overlapping with radiocarbon in the time period for which it is useful, but also has the potential for dating earlier periods. It has much in common with electron spin resonance (ESR).

    (Chapter 4 p. 154-55)
  32. Optical dating
    A method similar in principle to thermoluminescence, but used to date minerals which have been exposed to light, rather than heat.

    (Chapter 4 p. 156)
  33. Electron Spin Resonance (ESR) dating
    Enables trapped electrons within bone and shell to be measured without the heating that thermoluminescence requires. As with TL, the number of trapped electrons indicates the age of the specimen.

    (Chapter 4 p. 158)
  34. Obsidian hydration dating
    This technique involves the absorption of water on exposed surfaces of obsidian; when the local hydration rate is known, the thickness of the hydration layer, if accurately measured, can be used to provide an absolute date.

    (Chapter 4 p. 159)
  35. Amino-acid racemization
    A method used in the dating of both human and animal bone. Its special significance is that with a small sample (10g) it can be applied to material up to 100,000 years old, i.e. beyond the time range of radiocarbon dating.

    (Chapter 4 p. 160)
  36. Archaeomagnetic dating
    Sometimes referred to as paleomagnetic dating, it is based on the fact that changes in the earth's magnetic field over time can be recorded as remanent magnetism in materials such as baked clay structures (ovens, kilns, and hearths).

    (Chapter 4 p. 161)
  37. Chlorine-36 dating
    Method of dating rock art that depends upon the accumulation of nuclides at and near the surface of the rock when it is exposed to cosmic radiation. The concentration of Chlorine-36 in samples is compared with the background concentration present in samples from freshly exposed rock.

    (Chapter 4 p. 161)
  38. Geomagnetic reversals
    An aspect of archaeomagnetism relevant to the dating of the Lower Paleolithic, involving complete reversals in the earth's magnetic field.

    (Chapter 4 p. 162)
  39. Tephra studies
    Volcanic ash. In the Mediterranean, for example, deep-sea coring produced evidence for the ash fall from the eruption of Thera, and its stratigraphic position provided important information in the construction of a relative chronology.

    (Chapter 4 p. 164)

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