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Pottery Analysis - Typological Analysis And Other Dating Techniques

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Positive Number to Propaganda - World War IiPottery Analysis - Pottery Analysis, Technological Analyses, Typological Analysis And Other Dating Techniques

Typological analysis and other dating techniques

Typological analysis is the systematic classification of material culture into types based on similarities in form, construction, style, content, and/or use. Before the advent of modern dating techniques, typological analysis provided the chief basis for dating material objects. The underlying premise of the technique is that, in a given region, artifacts that resemble each other were created at about the same time, and that differences can be accounted for by gradual changes in the material culture.

Ceramic objects have thus been dated relative to each other based on typological or stylistic shifts in a material culture through time (seriation). One of the earliest seriation techniques used an indexing scheme to measure the similarity between artifacts. Today, computer-based statistical methods, including multidimensional analysis, factor analysis, and cluster analysis, are commonly used to date objects based on stylistic similarities.

In luminescence dating, a ceramic object is heated to produce a thermoluminescence signal characteristic of the length of time the objects have been buried. This technique is based on the principle that objects that have been buried a long time show greater luminescence intensities than those buried a short time.



Fagan, Brian M., ed. The Oxford Companion to Archeology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Maloney, Norah The Young Oxford Book of Archeology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Sullivan, George. Discover Archeology: An Introduction to the Tools and Techniques of Archeological Fieldwork. Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1980.

Randall Frost


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—A man-made object that has been shaped and fashioned for human use.

Atomic absorption spectrometry

—Method of analysis in which the specimen is placed in a flame and the light emitted is analyzed.

Ceramic petrology

—Study of the origin, occurrence, structure, and history of the material used in a ceramic object.

Crack propagation

—Growth of cracks in a material.

Fertile Crescent

—Crescent-shaped area extending from Israel to Turkey and Iran, where domestication of plants and animals first occurred.


—Treatment of a ceramic object with heat.

Inductively coupled plasma spectroscopy

—An analytical technique in which plasma from the sample, heated by flame to a much higher temperature than ordinary combustion flames, is sampled either by emission spectroscopy or mass spectrometry.

Microprobe analysis

—A chemical microanalysis technique based on the analysis of x rays emitted from a very small sample area.


—Study of structure and form.

Neutron activation analysis

—Method of analysis in which a specimen is bombarded with neutrons, and the resultant radio isotopes measured.


—To moisten and mix clay to achieve the proper consistency for use in ceramics.

Tensile strength

—The maximum stress from stretching that a material can experience without tearing.

Thermal shock

—Effect of rapidly subjecting a material to a very large change in temperature.


—Light emission accompanying the heating of a material.


—The study of artifacts based on observable traits such as form, methods of manufacture, and materials. Classification should not be based on an artifact's function because this can not be unambiguously determined.

X-ray diffraction

—A method using the scattering of x rays by matter to study the structure of crystals.

X-ray fluorescence spectrometry

—A nondestructive method of analysis in which a specimen is irradiated with x rays and the resultant spectrum is analyzed.

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