Geological Methods and Archaeological Methods

This is regarded as faunal remains. Radiocarbon dating is one technique that could be utilised to determine whether feature 202, is a pit that can be dated back to either the Bronze Age or the Late Iron Age. Aurochs is a species that was virtually extinct in Britain by the Late Bronze Age. Finds of aurochs on British Iron Age and Roman sites are extremely rare. Dating this artefact will help investigate the given scenarios and answer the research question by letting us know whether feature 202 is in fact a Bronze Age Pit.

This sample can be radiocarbon dated because it was once a living organism and therefore contains carbon, and the isotope specific to radiocarbon dating which is carbon-14. Regarding the first scenario it needs to be discerned whether feature 202 is in fact a Bronze age pit and therefore would have been created between 2300 BC and 1200 BC rather than a Late Iron Age pit which would mean it was created around 800 BC to 51 BC.

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This Aurochs skull, in order to be radiocarbon dated should be sent to a lab, where scientists will measure how much carbon-14 is left. Where it can be calculated how long it has been since death or deposition. The 'Late Iron Age Pot' is located at context point 174, almost at the deepest point of Section A drawing. If this singular artefact is radiocarbon dated alone, this would verify the validity of the preliminary dating, which is largely based on the assumption that this pot is from the Late Iron Age period.

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This artefact would be best suited to be radiocarbon dated to prove the validity of Scenario A. If there are organic additives to the pottery, then this sample can be radiocarbon dated in a similar way that the aurochs' skull. A confirmed date or age for this artefact using radiocarbon dating would establish whether the deposition of the skull and the iron age pot are broadly contemporary.

These are faunal remains. This sample is may aid the investigation the scenarios, as this may verify whether they are 'curated finds'. This artefact is organic matter and so can be radiocarbon dated easily. Regarding the research question. Unlike the Aurochs' skull, the Late Iron Age Pot and even the Roman artefacts in the upper layers of Section A, the sheep bones at context point 112 have not been subject to any preliminary dating. Therefore, in this instance, it may be useful to carry out some preliminary relative dating methods before carrying out the absolute dating technique, radiocarbon dating.

Additional dating techniques

One of the limitations of carbon-14 dating is that there is a point at which it has been an extensive amount of time since the material/matter has been alive that all the carbon-14 atoms have decayed. At this point radiocarbon dating ceases to be a method through which the materials age can be determined or estimated.

Stratigraphy is a relative dating technique that can refer to both organic and the cultural soil layers that makes up an archaeological deposit. It is contingent on the Law of Superposition, which states that because of natural forces, soils found buried deeply should have been laid down earlier and therefore will be more aged than the soils that are found on top of them. Therefore, stratigraphy is an appropriate dating technique for 'Scenario A' as, the aurochs' skull, the pottery and other artefacts and samples found in the pit located at context point 101 are the most deeply buried in Section A. Thus, providing an explanation for the preliminary dating being incorrect and the deposition of the skull and creation of the pit being contemporary to each other, from the Bronze Age - much earlier than the contents of the pit located at 190 and the Roman artefacts at the top of Section A. However, stratigraphy is considered, by some, to be an outdated method of dating and requires a proclivity towards the laws of geology and geological methods rather than archaeological methods. Stratigraphy may be a more useful dating method for preliminary dating in this scenario as it does not provide an absolute age, nor does it provide any specific context for the pit.

Thermoluminescence dating

Thermoluminescence dating is a dating technique that can date materials to a specific heating event. This dating method can determine the date when ceramics were fired by measuring the quantity of light that is released from energy in substances such as ceramics.

Therefore, this dating technique would be best suited to dating the 'Late Iron Age Pot' in the pit at 202 and the 'Late Iron Age Pot' at pit 190. This dating method also measures optically stimulated luminescence, which measures the energy released after deposits were subjected to substantial sunlight. Making the 'Late Iron Age' pots in both pits the most suitable materials to be dated using this method.

Racemization dating

Amino acid racemization can be used to date almost all living things, it relies upon observations of the change in amino acids that live in organisms. It is a dating method that allows archaeologists to date further back in time than radiocarbon dating does. Therefore, racemization dating would be useful for dating the aurochs' skull in the pit at 202 and the sheep bones scattered throughout the site.

In some instances, charcoal can be subjected to radiocarbon dating, if possible, this would be a vital step in the dating technique used as it would provide for clear chronological dating of the whole section. From this it would be possible to determine when the pits were created.

Updated: May 19, 2021
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Geological Methods and Archaeological Methods. (2019, Nov 25). Retrieved from

Geological Methods and Archaeological Methods essay
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