Ask the Archaeologist: When you dig an artefact up, how do you know how old it is?
Sometimes there are artefacts that are typical of their period so you can tell fairly easily – coins, pottery and some jewellery are the most obvious examples. These can be things that no matter where or how they’re found you know what and how old they are. Other things such as wood, bone, glass, stone, metalwork etc could be from any date. If you find them on an archaeological dig you will know which ‘context’ they were found in. Context, to an archaeologist, means where an artefact is found. Not just the place, but the soil, the site type, the layer the artefact came from, and what else was in that layer. If you know the date of the context, you can date what was found within it.
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