Advantages of radiocarbon dating in archaeology

17-Jun-2016 14:11 by 5 Comments

Advantages of radiocarbon dating in archaeology

Because usable clay is widely available, pottery was independently invented in many parts of the world at different times.The earliest recorded evidence of clay usage dates back to the Late Palaeolithic period in central and western Europe, where fired and unfired clay figurines were created as a form of artistic expression.

A famous example is on the island of Crete, where Arthur Evans was able to date the excavation of the Palace of Knossos based on imported Egyptian artefacts that were found there, including pottery, allowing the researchers to extend the Egyptian chronology into Crete.Not all types of clay can stand temperatures this high -- only some special types of clay which are largely free of impurities.By analysing the chemical composition of pottery fragments, it is possible to determine at what temperature the pottery was exposed, and therefore we can understand the level of technological sophistication of a society, at least in terms of their firing capabilities.In Ancient China, firing techniques allowed temperatures of about 1300-1400 degrees Celsius and even higher in some cases.At these temperatures, the mineral components of clay melt, resulting in a thin, translucent, white vitrified type of ceramic that is known as porcelain.As early as 30,000 years ago, we can also see evidence of some experimentation with clay: at a site known as Dolni Vestonice (Czech Republic), figurines made of clay mixed with crushed mammoth bone were found.

The oldest evidence of pottery manufacture has been found at an archaeological site known as Odai Yamamoto, in Japan, where fragments from a specific vessel have been dated to about 16,500-14,920 years ago.

This type of knowledge is usually the last step in a long sequence of experimentation, an indication that pottery production in that specific society was not new, and it probably had been developing for several thousand years.

According to the context in which the pottery was found, there are several techniques that can be applied for dating pottery.

Open firing techniques were used to produce the earliest pottery.

Through this method, temperatures could range from about 600 to about 800-900 degrees Celsius, which are relatively low temperatures.

Some of these objects can be dated independently: radiocarbon dating can be applied to human and animal remains and even to charcoal.