A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. - James Dent
Question #40727 posted on 11/12/2007 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

There are metal artifacts which archaeologists date to certain time periods. Are these dates based on a scientific tool like carbon dating for organic stuff? Or are they just based on design. And is there a way to metal date?

- Ancient Robot

A: Dear Ancient ~

Anything that is organic can use carbon dating to help date it. So, if there was an animal skin or tree wrapped around the metal, they could use carbon dating to date the metal. Otherwise, carbon dating and the like is useless.

Instead, they either examine the article itself, to see if they can determine a time period based on similar things dated to that time period, or they look at items that surrounded the item in question to help date it. Writing is particularly helpful, especially if it conveniently has the date written on it. But that is very, very unlikely to happen. Next best is pottery. Pottery changes remarkably over time and location, making it much easier to date. Plus, it's very common as everyone used it.

To find out more about archaeological dating, try looking at the Wikipedia article on Dating methodology (archaeology). Hmmm... makes you wonder if they have an article on just Dating Methodology, doesn't it? Probably sponsored by BYU...

~ Dragon Lady