Dating techniques for ceramics

Dating techniques for ceramics

Cassette tapes or eight-tracks might be the first things that come to mind when thinking about dated magnetic storage, but Bronze Age clay pottery has them both beat.

Using information stored in the clay’s magnetic minerals, scientists are developing methods to determine how old these artifacts are when other dating methods come up short.

Today, Stillinger can take these samples to her lab and reheat them slowly.By applying a well-defined magnetic field, she and her colleagues observe how the compasses within the clay reorient with the new field at different temperatures.But as the Bronze Age potters heated the clay, the compass needles turned and began aligning with the geomagnetic field, or the Earth’s magnetic field.When the pottery cooled, this alignment was frozen in place, preserving information about the geomagnetic field.Carbon dating is a widely-used technique for determining the age of archaeological discoveries, but the method only works on artifacts made from carbon-containing organic matter, like wood or cotton.

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For clay pottery, archaeomagnetic specialist Michele Stillinger of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis showed that a magnetic method might work.

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