Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Archaeological science (also known as Archaeometry) is the application of scientific techniques and methodologies to archaeology.
Significant new data can be obtained using these techniques, which has the potential to alter the understanding of the past. A good example of this is the so-called "Second radiocarbon revolution ", which significantly re-dated European prehistory in the 1960's (the first radiocarbon revolution was the original introduction of the method to archaeology).
- Radiocarbon dating - for dating organic materials
- Dendrochronology - for dating trees, but also very important for calibrating radiocarbon dates.
- Thermoluminescence dating - for dating inorganic material including ceramics.
- Optically Stimulated Luminescence - for absolutely dating and relatively profiling buried land surfaces in vertical and horizontal stratigraphic sections, most often by measuring photons discharged from Quartz grains within sedimentary bodies, although Feldspars are also able to be measured through this technique, complications caused by internally induced dose rates often mean Quartz-based analyses are favoured in archaeological applications.
- Electron spin resonance
- Potassium-argon dating - for dating fossilized hominid remains.
However, archaeological science has been applied in many other ways. A variety of methods have been used to analyse artefacts, either to determine more about their composition, or to determine their provenance. These techniques include:
- X-ray fluorescence (XRF)
- Inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS)
- Neutron activation analysis (NAA)
- Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
- Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)
Provenance analysis has the potential to determine the original source of the material used, for example, to create a particular artefact. This can show how far the artefact has been transported and can be used to indicate systems of exchange.
The use of remote sensing has enabled archaeologists to identify many more archaeological sites than would otherwise have been possible. The use of aerial photography remains the most wide-spread remote sensing technique, but this has been supplemented by the use of satellite imagery, especially with the declassification of images from military satellites.
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