Dating is very important in archaeology for constructing models of the past, as it relies on the integrity of dateable objects and samples.
Many disciplines of archaeological science are concerned with dating evidence, but in practice several different dating techniques must be applied in some circumstances, thus dating evidence for much of an archaeological sequence recorded during excavation requires matching information from known absolute or some associated steps, with a careful study of stratigraphic relationships.
For a non-exhaustive list of relative dating methods and relative dating applications used in geology, paleontology or archaeology, see the following: Same as geologists or paleontologists, archaeologists are also brought to determine the age of ancient materials, but in their case the areas of their studies are restricted to the history of both ancient and recent humans.
Thus, to be considered as archaeological, the remains, objects or artifacts to be dated must be related to human activity.
It was the case of an 18th-century sloop whose excavation was led in South Carolina (United States) in 1992.
Thus, from the oldest to the youngest, all archaeological sites are likely to be dated by an appropriate method.
The stratigraphy of an archaeological site can be used to date, or refine the date, of particular activities ("contexts") on that site.
For example, if a context is sealed between two other contexts of known date, it can be inferred that the middle context must date to between those dates.
This is admitted because of the simple reason that some botanical species, whether extinct or not, are well known as belonging to a determined position in the scale of time.
Historians, for example, know that Shakespeare's play Henry V was not written before 1587 because Shakespeare's primary source for writing his play was the second edition of Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, not published until 1587.
Thus, 1587 is the post quem dating of Shakespeare's play Henry V.
As stated previously, carbon dating cannot be used on artifacts over about 50,000 years old.
These artifacts have gone through many carbon-14 half-lives, and the amount of carbon-14 remaining in them is miniscule and very difficult to detect.