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Advanced dating methods


Admission requirements

Admission to the RMSc-programme Bioarchaeology.


This course will focus on the following dating methods:

  • Radiometric dating: radiocarbon including advanced applications (statistical analysis, reservoir effects), proper assessment of the data obtained.

  • Luminescence dating: TL, OSL.

  • Geology: K/Ar, U-series isotopes, ESR relevant for archaeology.

  • Chemical methods: racemisation, stratigraphies (magnetic, tephra, ice, marine stages).

  • Dating Pleistocene sites.

Course set-up:
1) C14: natural radioactivity, dating principle, C14 timescale, isotope effects, calibration.
2) C14: statistics, wiggle matching, Bayesian analysis, applications in archaeology.
3) C14: reservoir-effects and stable isotopes, C14 for the archaeologist (“what’s in a date?”).
4) TL, OSL (guest lecture by J. Wallinga).
5) Isotope geology relevant for archaeology: dating U-series, K/Ar, ESR.
6) Chemical methods and biostratigraphy: racemisation, palynology, isotope stages (lecture by M. van Kolfschoten).
7) Dating Pleistocene sites (Boxgrove, Happisburgh, Schöningen, Dmanisi, etc.)

Course objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of dating based on scientific methods and ability to relate this knowledge to a broader academic context and new, multidisciplinary contexts;

  • Ability to assess dating methods in archaeological research questions;

  • Ability to critically review the significance of the applied dating methods in general and for one’s own research;

  • Ability to report such reviews in written essays using relevant literature to support own position..


Course schedule details can be found in the RMA time schedule.

Mode of instruction


Course load

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures (1 ects);

  • 2 essays of 3,000-3,600 words each (4 ects).

Assessment method

4 essays about different dating methods and relevant case studies.

All essays together need to be a pass, which is only possible when all essays are submitted in time.
In case of a fail, the lecturer will decide for which of the essays a retake is needed.

All assessment deadlines (exams, retakes, paper deadlines etc.) can be found in the examination schedule.

Reading list

  • M. Walker, Quaternary Dating Methods;

  • Handouts.


Registration for the course is not necessary, registration for the exam is mandatory. For instructions, see the Registration in uSis page.


For more information about this course, please contact prof. dr. ir. J. v.d. Plicht.


Compulsory attendance.