Archaeologists sometimes use thermoluminescence dating to establish the age of pottery.
This technique is similar to carbon 14 dating in that, like organic substances, pottery contains small amounts of radioactive elements that decay at known and steady rates.
In relative soil dating, archaeologists follow two general principles known as refers to the concept that all the soil below a solid, undisturbed layer dates before that layer (see Figure 3).
Because all living organisms contain a radioactive form of carbon (carbon 14) that decays at a known and steady rate, archaeologists can determine an organic object's age (if it is less than 40,000 years old) by measuring the amount of carbon 14 remaining in the object.
The 1885 coin in Layer E establishes that Layer E dates from on or after 1885.
An archaeologist can determine the age of a pottery fragment by measuring the remaining amount of radioactive elements that it contains.
Another way of dating pottery and other inorganic materials is through .
Dating inorganic materials is also quite challenging, because relatively few artifacts come labeled with a date of manufacture.
In fact, pottery, the most common type of artifact found at archaeological sites, seldom contains obvious indications of its age.