Academic Master


applying the Seriation Dating method

Seriation can be defined as a comparative dating method in which artifacts from several sites of the same archaeological culture are arranged in chronological order. This method helps archaeologists date sites relatively. It is used to date pottery fragments and stone tools together with other artifacts.

Objectives of the Lab Report

The objectives of this report include helping to determine the occupation sequence of the eight sites located on the provided map of an island. Another objective is to identify the order of occupation of the eight sites of the island from the first site to the last site.


A set of potsherds was gathered from the eight sites of the island. The potsherds were of different colors: purple, white, light green, red, blue, and dark green. Provisions of graphing paper, tape, and scissors were made available to help record the frequencies of the potsherds.


My teammates and I decided to use the seriation method which works with numbers. We recorded the number of potsherds of each type that are found on each of our sites, playing around with them to develop the order of occupation. Each site had a different number of potsherd types. The choice of our method was that numbers are easy to work with mostly when patterns of descending or ascending order are concerned. We encountered a problem once when we were filling in details of the potsherds found in the sites in our table. A typing error proved to give a very different result than expected.

My team arranged the table until it was complete, and we came up with an order of occupation of the eight sites as follows: A, E, G, C, B, F, D, H. Time overlap occurs in phases I and II. Sites H and D, B, and C overlap in time, while sites A, E, G, and F do not overlap in time. When one looks at the map, there is an obvious settlement pattern as settlements move from the exterior towards the interior.

If the clue (15) had not been provided, my teammates and I could still have determined which site was the earliest and which was the latest by counting the sherds, just like for all other sites’ phases. In the real world, archaeologists use several clues to determine the location of archaeological sites. Such clues include surveying areas and remote sensing, and pilots who find archaeologic locations notify archeologists.

If I had a small budget covering only three sites, I would study sites A, B, and H. These three sites would help me get information about the region’s chronology as they are the starting, middle, and end points of our occupation pattern. The time frame of the occupation period mainly lies on the earliest and latest sites. If I did this, I still would not know approximately when some sites were occupied.

In the real-world archeological context, some problems arise when producing a usable seriation table. These problems may include the fact that seriation is done on groups of artifacts of the same culture. Therefore, seriation cannot work because the frequency of these artifacts is mixed up with those of other cultures. The frequency of artifacts of different cultures means that battleship curve patterns will not be produced. Seriation would be different if one followed the artifact design style since the design can remain unchanged through time. For instance, the shape of an arrow can remain unvaried for a long time, and we should use other qualities, such as color and material type, to determine seriation.



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