Relative dating techniques in archaeology
Absolute dates do not necessarily tell us when a particular cultural event happened, but when taken as part of the overall archaeological record they are invaluable in constructing a more specific sequence of events.Absolute dating contrasts with the relative dating techniques employed, such as stratigraphy.For Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean, this method from European prehistory is currently under development in a project based at Vienna.Absolute dating is the process of determining a specific date for an archaeological or palaeontological site or artifact.C-14 dates are often published as dates 'before present' (the 'present' was fixed for analytical reasons at a single point, and the year AD 1950 was chosen for this) with the indication of the inaccuracy.
With the introduction of objective quantifiable methods such as dendrochronology and Carbon-14 dating, over the past half century, European and North American archaeology have developed independent and more reliable chronologies, that often make it possible to date more precisely than in Egypt. For Egypt absolute year dates can only be established back to the beginning of the Late Period, from links to Greek chronology, and then from Assyrian king-lists and other Near Eastern sources, back to the Ramesside Period (still debated). The Egyptians dated by the year of reign of the king on the throne (for example 'year 3 of king X').In the archaeology of part-literate societies, dating may be said to operate on two levels: the absolute exactness found in political history or 'history event-by-event', and the less precise or relative chronology, as found in social and economic history, where life can be seen to change with less precision over time.The contrast might also be drawn between two 'dimensions', the historical, and the archaeological, corresponding roughly to the short-term and long-term history envisaged by Fernand Braudel.Some archaeologists prefer the terms chronometric or calendar dating, as use of the word "absolute" implies a certainty and precision that is rarely possible in archaeology.
Absolute dating is usually based on the physical or chemical properties of the materials of artifacts, buildings, or other items that have been modified by humans.
This is a radiometric technique since it is based on radioactive decay.