Chronometric Dating for the Archaeologist isn't bedtime reading, nor is it for the faint-of-heart, but at the same time one does not have to have a background in materials science or organic or inorganic chemistry to understand the basic premise of the work.
The editors' goal is to present a factual, current, and well-documented evaluation of a dozen of the major techniques that are used by scientists to determine chronology from archaeological artifacts or contexts.
In the second section, I furnish a more technical and detailed appraisal of the each of the twelve chapters with comments about those major publications previously regarded by archaeologists as key sources on these specific topics.
Lastly, there is a conclusion that incorporates a general discussion about this volume and its relationship to similar works and the current status of chronometric or "time placement" dating.
Aitken's own 1990 work may be the last volume of its type to have sole authorship.
Therefore, Taylor and Aitken assembled 19 of the world's leading experts on a dozen aspects of archaeological dating method and theory.
The book may certainly be regarded as a highly technical compendium, an essential reference work that should be acquired by any library and is mandatory for advanced students, and practitioners.
This is, however, also a significant document--a status report--which synthesizes the latest thinking about important dating methods written by a distinguished assemblage of international experts. Initially, I provide a broad assessment that will establish a background and a context for chronology in archaeology, and I shall present an overall evaluation of the volume.
Background, Context, and General Assessment Research conducted by archaeologists, prehistorians, historians of ancient cultures and civilizations, and art historians, among other scholars and scientists, has, in the main, four primary components: 1) description; 2) location, provenance, or provenience; 3) chronology; and 4) explanation, inference, and/or the testing of hypotheses.In the main, each contribution is structured similarly, beginning with an abstract, followed by a brief historical overview, and a discussion of how the technique "works" (including, in most instances, complex physical science discussions and/or mathematical formulae).The types of materials or contexts that are dated, potential sources of error or contamination, and results are also considered.Basic textbooks on archaeological method and theory relate that there are two methods of establishing chronology: 1) methods of relative dating (ascertaining the correct order of the events) and 2) absolute or chronometric dating (quantifying the measurement of time in terms of years or other fixed units).Relative dating may be derived from sequence dating through seriation (changes in artifact form, function, or style through time), by stratigraphic analysis (geological stratigraphy based upon the "Law of Superposition"), and by cross dating.