Relative dating techniques in archaeology
In the archaeology of part-literate societies, dating may be said to operate on two levels: the absolute exactness found in political history or 'history event-by-event', and the less precise or relative chronology, as found in social and economic history, where life can be seen to change with less precision over time.
The contrast might also be drawn between two 'dimensions', the historical, and the archaeological, corresponding roughly to the short-term and long-term history envisaged by Fernand Braudel.
These artifacts suggest people who are settled, at least part of the time. Washington, DC: George Washington University, 1977. (local study containing cultural sequence of eastern U.
They make pottery, which is not easily portable, as well as decorative items.
Or perhaps a burrowing animal tunneled down through a site, causing artifacts buried above to fall to lower levels.
Natural processes like frost heaving, erosion, and the down-slope movement of soils in colder climates (solifluction) can alter the original context in which the artifacts were deposited.
Inscribed objects sometimes bear an explicit date, or preserve the name of a dated individual. However, only a small number of objects are datable by inscriptions, and there are many specific problems with Egyptian chronology, so that even inscribed objects are rarely datable in absolute terms.
In such cases, archaeologists may employ , with the older layer beneath the latest.
This technique helps the archaeologist arrange the site in a vertical temporal sequence, which may then be compared to sites of similar age or type.
For a long period in the 20th century Egyptian and Near Eastern chronology seemed to be the earliest of absolute chronologies, and imports from these areas were used to reconstruct the chronology of European prehistory.
With the introduction of objective quantifiable methods such as dendrochronology and Carbon-14 dating, over the past half century, European and North American archaeology have developed independent and more reliable chronologies, that often make it possible to date more precisely than in Egypt. For Egypt absolute year dates can only be established back to the beginning of the Late Period, from links to Greek chronology, and then from Assyrian king-lists and other Near Eastern sources, back to the Ramesside Period (still debated). The Egyptians dated by the year of reign of the king on the throne (for example 'year 3 of king X').
If we knew the precise length of reign for every Egyptian king, chronology would be no problem.