Seriation stratigraphy and index fossils the backbone of archaeological dating
When combined with stratification analysis, an analysis of the stylistic changes in objects found at a site can provide a basis for recognizing sequences in stratigraphic layers.
Archeological stratigraphy, which focuses on stratifications produced by man, was derived largely from the observations of stratigraphic geologists, or geomorphologists.
Although not as well known as stratigraphic excavation, two other methods of relative dating have figured important in Americanist archaeology: seriation and the use of index fossils.
The latter (like stratigraphic excavation) measures time discontinuously, while the former - in various guises - measures time continuously.
Rather, common practice is to categorize them under the heading `stratigraphic excavation'.
This text distinguishes among the several techniques and argues that stratigraphic excavation tends to result in discontinuous measures of time - a point little appreciated by modern archaeologists.
It is difficult for today's students of archaeology to imagine an era when chronometric dating methods were unavailable.
However, even a casual perusal of the large body of literature that arose during the first half of the twentieth century reveals a battery of clever methods used to determine the relative ages of archaeological phenomena, often with considerable precision.
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Stratigraphy is the study of layered materials (strata ) that were deposited over time—their lateral and vertical relations, as well as their composition.