What is Archaeochronology?

Archaeochronology is the science of determining the age of materials that are the direct products or by-products of anthropogenic activities or are materials associated with such activities. A key requirement for archaeologists is to know the age of important events, artefacts and fossils. Without such chronological information, the events and objects of interest cannot be reliably placed in the correct time order, preventing meaningful insights into possible causes and consequences.


What does an Archaeochronologist do?

An archaeochronologist usually specialises in a specific dating technique. They may study the fundamental principles of a technique to further develop methodological and analytical approaches to improve the accuracy and precision of age estimates. They often also apply techniques to materials from sites of interest to answer time-related questions. Such questions could include the timing of the appearance, disappearance and duration of specific cultural or biological events, and correlating these with other types of information to improve our understanding of the interaction between humans and the environments in which they lived.


What do we do at CAS?

CAS researchers have specific expertise in optical dating of archaeological and geological sediments containing grains of quartz (optically stimulated luminescence, OSL) and feldspar (infrared or post-infrared infrared stimulated luminescence, IRSL or pIRIR). The UOW laboratory has world-class facilities and an international reputation for the measurement of individual grains of sand and for the construction of high-resolution chronologies for globally important archaeological sites. CAS members also have access to the latest generation of U-series, amino acid racemisation, cosmogenic nuclide (10Be, 26Al), radiocarbon (14C) and 40Ar/39Ar dating facilities at UOW and through collaborating laboratories in Australia and overseas.

Archaeochronologists often work closely with a range of other scientists working in allied fields. There is a particularly strong association between archaeochronologists and geoarchaeologists, who work to understand the details of site formation that may influence the interpretation of archaeological sequences. In CAS, archaeochronologists thus have access to a range of collaborators and facilities in geoarchaeology, such as the Geomicroscopy lab and the MicroTrace facility.