In areas in which scientists have tree rings sequences that reach back thousands of years, they can examine the patterns of rings in the wood and determine when the wood was cut down.This works better in temperate areas that have more distinct growing seasons (and this rings) and relatively long-lived tree species to provide a baseline.

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Stratigraphic excavation is the recording and study of these different strata as they are removed from the area.

The shape and style of an artefact changes through time although its function may remain the same.

The most common relative dating method is stratigraphy.

Other methods include fluorine dating, nitrogen dating, association with bones of extinct fauna, association with certain pollen profiles, association with geological features such as beaches, terraces and river meanders, and the establishment of cultural seriations.

This term means that older artefacts are usually found below younger items.

When an archaeological site is excavated the sides of the unexcavated baulk reveals layering of subsequent settlements and activity.

This also works with stone tools which are found abundantly at different sites and across long periods of time.

Stratigraphic dating is based on the principle of depositional superposition of layers of sediments called strata.

The development of Atomic Absorption Mass Spectrometry in recent years, a technique that allows one to count the individual atoms of 14C remaining in a sample instead of measuring the radioactive decay of the 14C, has considerably broadened the applicability of radiocarbon dating because it is now possible to date much smaller samples, as small as a grain of rice, for example.

Dendrochronology is another archaeological dating technique in which tree rings are used to date pieces of wood to the exact year in which they were cut down.

Relative dating methods allow one to determine if an object is earlier than, later than, or contemporary with some other object.