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18-Sep-2018 20:55

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Stratigraphy is the oldest of the relative dating methods that archaeologists use to date things.Stratigraphy is based on the law of superposition--like a layer cake, the lowest layers must have been formed first.In other words, artifacts found in the upper layers of a site will have been deposited more recently than those found in the lower layers.Cross-dating of sites, comparing geologic strata at one site with another location and extrapolating the relative ages in that manner, is still an important dating strategy used today, primarily when sites are far too old for absolute dates to have much meaning.

The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory.For example, JJA Worsaae used this law to prove the Three Age System.For more information on stratigraphy and how it is used in archaeology, see the Stratigraphy glossary entry.