Modern dating methods have revolutionized the placing in time of prehistoric events, and many earlier estimates have been completely revised. “The end of the Ice Age has been brought forward in time, the beginning of urbanization has been pushed back....” Yet here are still uncertainties and controversies, and a large number of archaeologists need to be better acquainted with the latest techniques. This handbook attempts to remedy the situation by discussing the technicalities of the methods presently available for archaeological dating.
The book opens with a detailed presentation of C14 dating, including a summary of the method, information on collecting, packaging, labeling, and describing samples, pretreatments, laboratory methods, and interpretation of C14 dates. Archaeological applications of tree-ring data as well as the methods involved in archaeomagnetic dating (which is rapidly becoming one of the significant methods of dating ceramic objects) and the thermoluminescent dating of pottery are then considered. Subsequent chapters treat the basic principles, sample-gathering methods, and measurement techniques of fission track dating, potassium-argon dating (it was K-Ar measurements on volcanic rock that first determined the exact age of certain hominoid remains discovered by L. S. B. Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge), and obsidian hydration dating, which has aroused great interest and enthusiasm owing to its wide range of application in archaeological analysis and its low cost. While all of these techniques are still in the process of development and refinement, enough is known to make it imperative for archaeologists in the field and in the laboratory to be aware of them.
This is essentially a fieldbook for “diggers”; it will give the archaeologist enough information so that he collects and prepares his samples properly, and it provides ample references so that he may further pursue each dating method.