Culture history and diffusionism may - with hindsight - seem excessively preoccupied with classification and social evolution, and to have applied unsophisticated historical interpretations instead of asking fundamental questions about human behaviour. Petrie used sequence dating to work back from the earliest historical phases of Egypt into pre-dynastic Neolithic times, using groups of contemporary artefacts deposited together at a single time in graves. The extent of documentation varied considerably in 'historical' cultures and the information that survives is determined by a variety of factors. Applying historical dates to sites If a context containing burnt debris and broken artefacts is excavated on a site from a historical period, it is tempting to search the local historical framework for references to warfare or a disaster in the region, and to date the excavated context accordingly. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed similar progress that began with the dating of recent geological periods in which early hominids lived, and ended with the introduction of radiocarbon dating. Climatostratigraphy While some geologists concentrated on the age of the Earth, others studied distinctive surface traces left behind by changes in the extent of polar ice during the most recent (Quaternary) geological period.
BACKGROUND It is increasingly difficult for prehistorians working in the twenty-first century to conceptualise the problems experienced by their predecessors, and approaches to interpretation before the 1960s are consistently criticised. Classification divides things up for the purposes of description, whereas typology seeks to identify and analyse changes that will allow artefacts to be placed into sequences. Sequence dating and seriation These techniques both place assemblages of artefacts into relative order. HISTORICAL DATING Prehistorians sometimes overestimate the accuracy and detail of frameworks based on historical evidence; in practice, early written sources may provide little more information than a scatter of radiocarbon dates. Geological time-scales Accurate knowledge of the age of the Earth was of little direct help to archaeologists, but it emphasised the potential of scientific dating techniques.
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The study of archaeology as an academic discipline is dependant on the accuracy of various dating methods.Next time you go to the mall take a look at the cars around you.Can you tell which ones are newer and which ones are older?Adding the margin of error for carbon-14 (in this case, /- 150 years), the archaeologist can give a reliable date range for the bone: 1655-1405 B. A bone found deep in the ground will generally be older than one found close to the surface, for example.Two bones found in the same archaeological deposit are likely to be the same age.