Imagine an archaeologist needs to assign a date to a bone recovered during an excavation.

Turning to carbon-14 dating, the archaeologist might discover that the bone dates from 3,500 years ago. It involves putting things into a sequence based on their relative ages.

Any artifact that might reflect stylistic changes, such as pottery or tombstone art, can be dated using this relative method.

All living beings, both plants and animals, have a mixture of radioactive C-14 and nonradioactive C-12 atoms in their organic material. The remaining C-14 atoms decay at a constant rate, allowing this process to be used reliably as an indicator of age.

This dating method is used to date obsidian, a kind of volcanic glass.

In dendrochronology, it is essential to have a specimen that includes the outermost tree ring, since this shows the year the tree was cut.

This method is generally accurate to one year and, in certain instances, it can even determine the season.

Voyage into Archaeology Links, articles, and other beginner's resources in archaeology, including a simulation game called "Be a Time Detective." Glossary of Archaeological Terms What is chert? For example, the arrival of sophisticated carbon-14 dating methods in the 1940s caused scientists to revise their interpretation of events in Europe in prehistoric times.

Accurate dating is important for putting events and objects in sequence.Adding the margin of error for carbon-14 (in this case, /- 150 years), the archaeologist can give a reliable date range for the bone: 1655-1405 B. A bone found deep in the ground will generally be older than one found close to the surface, for example.Two bones found in the same archaeological deposit are likely to be the same age.Obsidian hydration dating has provided invaluable information about population patterns in the ancient Maya center of Copán.Seriation is a relative dating method that is used to place types of artifacts (or sites with certain artifact types) into a chronological sequence.This is especially significant when archaeologists have no other dating information.