How Well Do You Know Your Time Line? April 2014

  1. BC & AD vs. BCE & CE (Archaeosoup Productions)
  2. BBC Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Video Clip
  3. BBC News: How the Mayan Calendar Works
  4. Archaeosoup Production Carbon Dating Video
  5. Archaeosoup Production Thermoluminescence Dating Video
  6. Archaeosoup Production Dendrochronology Dating Video
  7. Time Teams Special 31 (2007) Britain’s Drowned World (23 minutes and 54 seconds in)

This meeting set out to introduce and provide a brief summery to our members to the idea of archaeological approaches to time.  We introduced different approaches to order of historical periods, recording or labeling time and even methods to measuring time.

AD and BC vs. BP 

In true archaeologist style, we do not approach labeling years or the dating method one format.

BC = Before Christ,  AD = Anno Domini (After Christ)

This is the most common way of presenting dates in museums and in school text books, and is based on the calendar you use every day.   This calendar is the Christian Calendar, and the video clip BC & AD vs. BCE & CE (Archaeosoup) provides a detailed explanation of the origin of BC and AD.

BC for dates that occurred before the birth of Jesus and you use AD for dates after the birth of Jesus.

If you do not believe in Christianity you might not be happy to use the AD or BC term.  This is why in some museums or text books you can sometimes find the same dates with but labelled differently.  There is a short video which discusses BC & AD vs. BCE & CE (Archaeosoup)

  • BCE = Before Common Era which is the same as BC
  • CE = Common Era which is the same as AD

BP = Before Present

If you archaeology into University level and a career you will also use BP dating approach.  This dating label is used when dealing with more sites that are older than 5000 years old, and when archaeologists are using scientific dating methods.  The ‘zero’ date  for BP is in fact 1950.

Methods to Measure time

There are multiple different ways for an Archaeologist or Historian could massure time, but we only briefly touched on the topics.  Each one requires a whole meet to themselves.

Common Archaeological Dating Methods

Topography in short is the classification of items according to their general type.   We first explained the process by getting our members to look at old mobile phones, and place them in order of their development.  While asking questions about why they would have changed over time?   We then moved onto a range of historical artifacts and a time line.  The members organised the artifacts into the correct historical period based on the technology development.  There were some items which shape and function did not change fore hundreds of years (such as a weight for weaving), while others such as axes has gone through many developmental changes.

Stratigraphy is a geology dating method, which archaeologist have adapted for when they are on excavations.  Is it the order and layering of strata (soil) over time.  Therefore, in the archaeological record if an artifact such as a flint axe is found below a roman coin, you can assume that the flint axe is older than the roman coin.  Have a go at the worksheet.

Historical Method

Throughout history people have been recording time (calendars) and key historical events.  Historians, Ancient Historians and Archaeologist have been using these documents to help date historical periods, cultures, key events and even sites.  However, not all these calendars use the dating system that we would be familiar with, but Historians and Ancient Historians have already translated these calendars to which our culture is more familiar with.  The different types of records that could are

Scientific Methods

As the scientists develop technology, it is becoming possible to date artifacts, human remains and sites more accurately.   Also, this means that to be an archaeologist you do not have to dig in the ground, but could work in a scientific laboratory.  This is where you tend to see the use of BP dates.  We looked at briefly the following three methods below, but for details click on the links 🙂

Time Lines

Are a way which we can clearly show a list of artifacts or key dates or historical periods or even your own life line, and which comes before the other.  In short you are listing dates  in Chronological order, but also helping to visualize time lapses between each event taking place of if things over lap.  We looked at the different ways which time lines can appear and that


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