Archaeologists use many different techniques to determine the age of a particular artifact, site, or part of a site.
Two broad categories of dating or chronometric techniques that archaeologists use are called relative and absolute dating.
Based on a discipline of geology called stratigraphy, rock layers are used to decipher the sequence of historical geological events.
Relative techniques can determine the sequence of events but not the precise date of an event, making these methods unreliable.
Today, many different radioactive elements have been used, but the most famous absolute dating method is radiocarbon dating, which uses the isotope C.
This isotope, which can be found in organic materials and can be used only to date organic materials, has been incorrectly used by many to make dating assumptions for non-organic material such as stone buildings.
Application of scientific methods, also called absolute dating, started to be used in the 1980s and since then has increased more and more its significance, as judged by the large number of papers published in the last two decades on this subject (Rowe Absolute and relative dating methods have been used to establish tentative chronologies for rock art.
Relative dating refers to non-chronometric methodologies that produce seriation based on stylistic comparison and stratigraphic assumptions.
Limits to relative dating are that it cannot provide an accurate year or a specific date of use.
The style of the artefact and its archaeology location stratigraphically are required to arrive at a relative date.
Archaeologists have access to various techniques for dating archaeological sites or the objects found on those sites.