Without the ability to date archaeological sites and specific contexts within them, archaeologists would be unable to study cultural change and continuity over time.
No wonder, then, that so much effort has been devoted to developing increasingly sophisticated and precise methods for determining when events happened in the past.
Cultural seriations are based on typologies, in which artifacts that are numerous across a wide variety of sites and over time, like pottery or stone tools.
If archaeologists know how pottery styles, glazes, and techniques have changed over time they can date sites based on the ratio of different kinds of pottery.
Prehistorians sometimes overestimate the accuracy and detail of frameworks based on historical evidence; in practice, early written sources may provide little more information than a scatter of radiocarbon dates.
The extent of documentation varied considerably in 'historical' cultures and the information that survives is determined by a variety of factors.
If a context containing burnt debris and broken artefacts is excavated on a site from a historical period, it is tempting to search the local historical framework for references to warfare or a disaster in the region, and to date the excavated context accordingly.
In archaeology, dating techniques fall into two broad categories: chronometric (sometimes called “absolute”) and relative.
Chronometric dating techniques produce a specific chronological date or date range for some event in the past. Relative dating techniques, on the other hand, provide only the relative order in which events took place.
It is generally a raised area above the rest of the city where the most important sacred and secular buildings are brought together.