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Stratigraphy is the oldest of the relative dating methods that archaeologists use to date things.Stratigraphy is based on the law of superposition--like a layer cake, the lowest layers must have been formed first.The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.There are dendrochronological records for Europe and the Aegean, and the International Tree Ring Database has contributions from 21 different countries.The main drawback to dendrochronology is its reliance on the existence of relatively long-lived vegetation with annual growth rings.For example, JJA Worsaae used this law to prove the Three Age System.Seriation, on the other hand, was a stroke of genius.
It was now possible to assign a calendar date to archaeological sites in the American southwest for over 1000 years.For example, since each Roman emperor had his own face stamped on coins during his realm, and dates for emperor's realms are known from historical records, the date a coin was minted may be discerned by identifying the emperor depicted.Many of the first efforts of archaeology grew out of historical documents--for example, Schliemann looked for Homer's Troy, and Layard went after the Biblical Ninevah--and within the context of a particular site, an object clearly associated with the site and stamped with a date or other identifying clue was perfectly useful. Outside of the context of a single site or society, a coin's date is useless.Since the turn of the century, several methods to measure elapsed time have been discovered.
The first and simplest method of absolute dating is using objects with dates inscribed on them, such as coins, or objects associated with historical events or documents.
Absolute dating, the ability to attach a specific chronological date to an object or collection of objects, was a breakthrough for archaeologists.