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So dating, just to be clear dating as in

What you see here are range of ways
people tell time in past and present.
Now, in archaeology, there are two basic
types of dating: relative and absolute.
Relative dating:
I am older than the person who is filming
me right now.
Fenway Park, home of my beloved Boston
Red Sox, is older than me.
The Colosseum in Rome is older than
Fenway Park.
No, no numbers involved here.
Relative dating just lines things up
before and after.
Doesn't give specific differences between
Does not give any absolute age, absolute
time difference.
Everything is relative, floating, not
fixed at a specific point in time.
Now absolute dating on the other hand is
when an actual chronological date is
assigned to something.
This is also called chronometric dating.
I am 52, Michael is.
>> 44.
>> 44, right.
Fenway Park was opened in 1912 CE, the
Colosseum in 80 CE.
So, you see the difference?
Now why might you need such fixed dates,
fixed points?
You need absolute dates to get a sense of
just how much time divides two past
events or past monuments, and thereby to
see how quickly or slowly things change
between those two points.
And that's something relative dating
cannot tell you.
Am I old enough to be Michael's mother?
We would need absolute dates to verify
that hideous and obviously incorrect
Now how are absolute dates expressed?
in the West, the standard was for a long
time to use BC, before Christ, or AD,
anno domini, year of our Lord.
Now these are terms not necessarily
meaningful to many peoples.
The Islamic calendar, conversely, dates
from the prophet Mohammad's departure
from Mecca to Medina, which equates to AD
Now in recent years, a more neutral
archaeological and historical terminology
has been advocated.
BCE, before the Common Era and CE, Common
And that is what I'll use here, though
you are going to hear varying
terminologies throughout the class.
Let's talk a bit more about relative
One way to establish a relative
chronology is through stratigraphic
We've talked already about the principle
of stratigraphic succession, the law of
The lower you go, the older you get,
unless yes, unless you see signs of
interference from formation processes.
Through excavation, we can say what is
older than what by the relative position
of finds, though you can't say from
stratigraphy alone how much older it is.
It isn't as if if something is just a
little bit below something else, it's
just a little bit older, if a whole lot
below, it's a whole lot older.
Sadly, it doesn't work that way, sadly,
it ain't that easy.
Now, it isn't just a matter of where you
find things, but what you find and how
you treat your finds.
One of the first things archeologists
will do after they've recovered their
material, is to classify the objects,
divide them into meaningful categories:
Pots verses lithics verses coins verses
mudbrick, you know, whatever.
This is called making a typology.
Basically this involves the
classification of artifacts into types on
the basis of certain similarities.
Now one thing to understand about
typologies it, that there is no one way
to do it.
There's as many different typologies as
there are archaeological questions.
So there's no right or wrong way, but
some are definitely more useful than
It makes more sense to put pots in one
category and coins in another and mudbrick in another, then to say okay,
things bigger or smaller than a bread
Typologies begin to allow us to control
the finds we make, make some sense of a
group of objects.
One of your archaeological exercises will
offer you the chance to do just this kind
of analysis.
You might be thinking though, what does
making a typology have to do with dating?
Well, one general feature, a
cross-cultural feature of human life is
that artifact styles change through time.
Pots, jewelry, clothing, whatever, all
change in design through time.
It's strange but true that it is very
rare for things to remain unchanged over
long periods.
Alright, I want you to think of something
that has not developed, has not changed
at all.
Doesn't look all that different from your
parent's time to your own.
Think about that for a second.
Now, what doesn't change in my world?
Pencils, toilets in case you're
I've, that, I came across that toilet
doing intensive survey in Greece.
Don't ask me what it's doing there.
These are functional things, not
glamorous things.
Money, too, tends to be quite
Doesn't tend to alter through time.
What does change?
Think of clothes, cars, hairstyles, you
know, things that are highly variable,
things that are central to self present,
Now that takes us to the concept of
seriation, the process of lining things
Seriation is a relative dating method.
And it involves a ranging archaeological
materials into a sort of a presumed
chronological sequence based on cultural
and stylistic change.
Now, as long as items are gathered from
the same cultural tradition,
archaeologists assume that stylistic
change occurs relatively gradually over
So by tracing similarities and
differences in style. And by measuring
the relative popularizes of these
different styles, one can reconstruct a
relative sequence.
You see here Fords Model T to Fords
latest model, and all the steps in
You can get, you can develop a sort of a
sense of progression. So for ever after if
you dig up a car, this provides a way
without having to dig up a car just above
it or just below it,
it allows you a way to say roughly where
it lies in the chronological sequence.
Is it closer to the model T, or closer to
today's version?
Won't tell you exactly the year of the
car, but says where in the development of
cars this example lies.
Now seriations is not of course perfect.
Some styles come back, bell bottoms,
retro fashions.
But still, it's one relative dating
Now sooner or later, however, in every
archaeologist's life, there comes a time
when you want a bit more than that.
You're going to want some absolute or
chronometric dates.
Now this might be an absolute, absolute
What you see here happening, 24 August AD (CE)
Well, Pompeii.
Or it might be something, you know, less
Third quarter of the first century CE.
Either way, absolute chronological dates
pin things down.
So how do you get an absolute date on
archaeological artifact or feature?
Now, sometimes the artifact actually
tells you.
Some lucky future archaeologist might
find a time capsule.
You see here one we buried at Brown,
deliberately deposited, chock-full of
synchronic, dated material.
More likely, archeologists might find
coins, many of which one way or another
can provide an outright date.
Coins are sometimes called the
excavator's best friend, for they provide
one clear indication of the date of the
stratum where it was found, and that
helps us with what is both below and what
is above.
Now two useful terms in all this, the
concept of terminus ante quem, T.A.Q. and
terminus post quem, T.P.Q.
This is Latin.
T.A.Q. is the date before which a stratum,
artifact or feature must have been
T.P.Q. is the date after which a stratum,
artifact, or feature must have been
Let's say you're digging, and you find a
floor, and laying on the floor is a coin,
a coin that dates to 43 BCE, the year
after Julius Caesar's death.
A nice coin decorated with the daggers
that killed him.
Well, that provides a nice T.A.Q. for the
The floor had to be there before the coin
could be put on it.
The floor dates before 43 BCE.
Caesar could have stood on it.
If the coin lay below the floor however,
then that gives you a T.P.Q., a date after
which the feature was deposited.
That is the coin came before the floor,
and Caesar was never there.
Useful concepts, though, I tend to get
them backwards so you better check me on