Problems with archaeological dating methods

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The process for dating a timber sample goes like this: first, the rings are measured and the pattern is searched for in the reference chronologies, to hopefully yield a match. The degree of accuracy to which a timber sample is dated increases if bark is present as the ring before the bark is the year in which the tree was felled.A much more up-to-date method of aging artefacts (although dendrochronology is within the past fifty years), is Carbon-14 (C has a half-life of 5568 years.Relative dating is not as accurate as absolute dating, but I shall look at methods from both areas.

The ‘things’ can be artefacts or immaterial things that might occur within the environment.Absolute dating is far more accurate than relative dating.Absolute dating methods are used when archaeologists wish to know how old an artefact or site is in calendar years.These are produced by overlapping ring patterns from successively older timbers, starting with living trees, then buildings, and finally samples from archaeological sites and peat bogs. One problem with dendrochronology however, is that different trees grow in different places, and so, as with pollen dating, it often pays to consult a specialist when utilising this method of dating.Another problem is that although there are ‘master sequences’ for different trees in different places, sometimes, local chronologies remain ‘floating’, that is, they have not been included into the master sequences, although this is slowly becoming less of a problem.

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