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Archeological question

  1. Sep 23, 2003 #1


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    Is this forum the correct place for this question?

    I recently saw a program on History Channel (or Science Channel - I'm not sure which one) where a man in England unearthed some pieces of pottery in his yard while building an addition to his home. I came in on the tail end of the program, so I missed HOW they determined the date of these artifacts. I did come to understand that they were Roman in origin, but I was wondering specifically how they dated these pottery items. Can someone help?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2003 #2
    Just a guess, because I didn't see the program. But typically the easiest way for archaeologists to date pottery is to compare the style to known example from the same period. Type of clay used, design, decoration, etc. It's a lot easier and less expensive than radiometric dating.
  4. Sep 23, 2003 #3
    Article on Pottery Dating. Radioactive dating isn't quite as expensive as it used to be either, so it's possible they did do that.
  5. Sep 26, 2003 #4


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    chemicalsuperfreak is correct, the program you watched
    was almost certainly TIME TEAM, pottery is dated by
    style and composition, bones are carbon dated ,wood
    is dated by "dendrology" ,spelling? ring growth.
  6. Oct 4, 2003 #5
    But the real and new trick for pottery dating is http://www.dal.ca/~digs/tl1.htm [Broken] It's a complicated trick. But basically is possible to measure the time between two consecutive heating events of some minerals.

    Minerals like clay in pottery, have the property of thermoluminescence (TL). What happens is that part of the energy from radioactive decay in the mineral is stored (electrons). When the material is heated that they glow like pottery that is heated in the stove. The amount of glowing tells something of the amount of trapped elektrons. The energy is released again and the electrons recombine with ions. This resets the radioactive counting clock. And during radioactive exposure, the trapped electrons start to build again.

    For the TL-dating, the pottery sample is reheated again. The emited light is analysed and compared with light that is produced by another sample after a known exposure to radiation. This gives a count of the radiation received by the sample and after some math the time between the two heating events can be calculated.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  7. Oct 4, 2003 #6


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    Thanks, Andre. I appreciate your time and knowledge. Beren - that article is facinating! Thank you, too. Thanks, EVERYONE!!!!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  8. Oct 26, 2003 #7
    TL dating is pretty good, but the downside is that the pottery is nearly always destroyed in the process. The re-heating makes it very brittle and it will usually fall apart/crumble the very next time it's handled.

    Also, some comparative analysis needs to be done to the soil.
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