Dating methods/Pattern recognition

                                            (proposed syllabus)


“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once.”   Albert Einstein


This course can reasonably be expected to introduce the student to many of the scientific methods used

to discriminate past events, and to understand how pattern recognition is at the base of prehistory and

other disciplines.


I believe this course should be taught for the following reasons:

      - Interest in history and prehistory is virtually universal

      - How we have determined the age of something is often omitted

      - The involvement of math, chemistry, biology, physics, and social sciences, make it a truly

           cross-disciplinary subject

      - Introduction to patterns related to age determination may inspire a search for more


Personally, I would open the course to all college students and present it in a loose lecture format allowing

   for numerous clarification interruptions. The content could easily fill 2-3 hours per week, but without

   recognition to degree programs, should be taught as pass/fail, with failure due only to excessive

   absence. With recognition, it could offer 3 credit hours to humanities or science degrees, but would

   then require examination and some standardization.


Course Schedule (proposed - for summer)

    week 1 - Overview

        Primary Disciplines - anthropology, archaeology, forensics, geology, history, paleontology, cosmochronology

        Time Scales - Astronomical Polarity time scale, Astronomical time scale, Cosmological time scale,

           Early Solar System timescale, Extinct Radionuclide timescale, Geological time scale, Geomagnetic

           Polarity time scale, Geomagnetic time scale, Isotopic time scale, Lunar Geological timescale,

           Magnetic Anomaly time scale, Martian Geological timescale, Orbitally Tuned Geological

           timescale, Paleontological time scale, Phanerozoic time scale, Radioisotopic time scale

           Radiometric time scale, Standard Global Chronostratigraphic Scale


     week 2 - Form event discrimination

         Form event discrimination relates observable change in external surface characteristics to the

             passage of time. The surface may be that of an object, an organ, or the earth. Characteristics

             include size, shape, spatial location, color, and texture. A database of surface characteristics

             provides numerous patterns, including age. Large databases of fossil ammonites, amphibians,

             conodonts, diatoms, dinoflagellates, fish, foraminifera, fungal spores, fusulinids, graptolites,

             insects, leaves, mammals, nannofossils, ostracodes, palynomorphs, pollen, radiolarians, reptiles,

             and trilobites exist. Growing databases concern fossil assemblage and biorange data. Human artifacts,

             particularly points, pottery, and documents have well defined age characteristics through large

             databases. Astronomical data allows extrapolation back to heavens seen by the ancients, and helps

             date the universe and its contents. Databases on earth surface change, such as glacial effects,

             earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, sea and lake levels, flooding, uplift, and erosion, provide patterns

             leading to age determinations and predictions of future events.


         characteristics patterns

              methods – ammonite biozone dating, anthropological dating, artifact time marker,

                  biochronology, biorange markers, biostratigraphy, biozone dating, geomorphology,

                  conodont-zone dating, diatom dating, dinoflagellate dating, foraminifera-zone dating,

                  fossil assemblages, fungal spore zone dating, fusulinid-zone dating,

                  graptolite-zone dating, index fossils, invertebrate paleontology, lithodemic units,

                  nannofossil zone dating, paleontology, palynology, palynomorph zone dating,

                  radiolarian zone dating, seriation, trilobite-zone dating, typology, zooarchaeology

         symbolic patterns

              methods - document dating, image dating, style, subjects depicted

         event patterns

              methods - astronomy dating, Bond events, deglaciation chronology, event chronology,

                  global climatic events, Heinrich events, lake level analysis, meltwater pulse,

                  recurrence surface, seafloor spreading rates, sea level variation


     week 3 - Tissue event discrimination

         Tissue event discrimination relates observable change in internal tissue characteristics to the passage

            of time. The tissue may be that of plant, animal, rock, or the skin of the earth. Variational

            characteristics include color, texture, absorption lines, growth, thickness, and composition above

            the molecular level. A database of internal tissue characteristics provides numerous patterns,

            including age. The largest database, the stratigraphic, has been growing for hundreds of years, and

            is now subdivided into numerous, more manageable, databases. Tree ring and varve databases

            have over fifty years of data collection and thus are strong indicators of various event ages. Other

            more material specific databases also lead to age control.


          absorption patterns

               methods - hydration profiles, obsidian hydration dating, quartz hydration dating,

                   rehydroxylation dating

          accumulation patterns

               methods - alunite accumulation, loess-chronometry, patination, seafloor spreading

                   rates, sedimentation rate chronology, sedimentology, varnish stratigraphy

          reduction patterns

               methods - body temperature time of death, corrosion age, differential weathering,

          growth patterns

                methods - anthropological age analysis, coral reef dating, dentition age analysis,

                   entomological time of death, Lamendin age, lichenometry, speleothem deposition,

                   stalactite deposition, thermo-microbiological time of death

          stratification patterns

                methods - age equivalent stratigraphic markers, allostratigraphy, biostratigraphy,

                    chronostratigraphy, ecostratigraphy, event stratigraphy, ice core dating,

                    lake sediment successions, lithostratigraphy, paleosol analysis, pedostratigraphy,

                    sapropel chonology, sequence stratigraphy, stratigraphy, superimposition,


          yearly/seasonal patterns

                methods - coral ring dating, dendrochronology, ear wax age, tusk ring analysis,

                    varve chronology, growth ring age, algal growth layers, otolith growth bands


    week 4 - Molecular event discrimination

           Molecular event discrimination relates change in molecular composition to the passage of time.

               The molecules involved may be those of plant, animal, rock, or the skin of the earth. Typical

               change includes availability, mutation, formation, degradation, and replacement. A database of

               molecular composition provides numerous patterns, including age. DNA/RNA data analysis is

               now a major branch of the biological sciences. It has provided estimates of age for numerous

               branchings of the tree of life. Geochemical data analysis is now a major branch of the geological

               sciences. It has provided estimates of age for numerous geophysical events. Other more material

               specific molecular databases also lead to age control.


           chemical availability patterns

                 methods - paper dating, pigment dating

           mutation patterns

                 methods - DNA analysis, molecular anthropology

           chemical formation/degradation patterns

                 methods - amino acid racemization, chemical transformations, chemostratigraphy,

                    environmental release dating, geochemical dating, ink dating, molecular dating,

                    oxidizable carbon ratio, spectroscopic dating, T-cell DNA age, alkenone paleothermometry

           replacement patterns

                 methods - aragonite/calcite ratios, fluorine analysis, nitrogen analysis, U-Fl-N dating


    week 5 - Atomic event discrimination

           Atomic event discrimination relates change in atomic composition to the passage of time. The

               atoms involved may be stable isotopes or radiogenic isotopes. Typical change involves

               accumulation or reduction. A database of atomic composition provides numerous patterns,

               including age. Stable isotope data analysis provides age control through stratification, source

               tracing, and replacement patterns. Radiogenic isotope data analysis provides the most direct

               form of age control. Radiogenic isotopes have been produced by the sun, the presolar nebula,

               prior local star groups, and man's nuclear artifices. These isotopes, by decaying at a steady rate,

               have provided close age estimates of the early solar system, planets, rocks, biological remnants,

               and air/water systems.


           cosmogenic surface exposure patterns

                 methods - 10Be/9Be dating, 41Ca dating, 36Cl dating, cosmogenic dating,

                    3He dating, iodine-129 dating, Kr-Kr exposure age, Ne-21 dating, 26Al/10Be surface

                    exposure dating

           cosmogenic atmospheric exposure patterns

                 methods - Ar39 dating, 7Be dating, 10Be/9Be dating, cosmogenic dating,

                     81Kr dating, 210Pb dating, radiocarbon dating, tritium analysis,

                     tritium/helium-3 dating,

           stable isotope records patterns

                 methods - benthic isotope stratigraphies, carbon-isotope analysis, deuterium analysis,

                    hydrogen isotope analysis, isotope geochemistry, isotopic dating, isotopic event

                    stratigraphy, isotopic tracing, lead-lead isotope, marine isotope stage, Nd-Nd ratios,

                    nitrogen isotope analysis, oxygen isotope record, oxygen isotope stage,

                    planktonic stratigraphy, 87Sr/86Sr geochronology, 87Sr/86Sr ratios,

                    stable isotope analysis, strontium isotope stratigraphy, sulfur isotope analysis

           alpha particle track patterns

                 methods - cosmic ray dating, fission track dating, 244Pu fission track thermometry


    week 6 - Atomic event discrimination (cont.)


           nuclear fallout patterns

                 methods - bomb-radiocarbon dating, cesium137 dating

           extant nova produced patterns

                 methods - argon-40/argon-39, 4He/3He thermochronometry, helium-lead dating,

                    K-Ca dating, 40K-40Ca ‘double-plus’ dating, Lu-Hf, 231Pa/230Th ratio,

                    231Pa/235U ratio, Pb-Pb dating, potassium-argon dating, Rb-Sr dating,

                    Re-Os dating, Sm-Nd dating, Te-Xe dating, 232Th-208Pb dating, 230Th/232Th,

                    U/Pb dating, uranium/thorium dating, (U-Th)/He dating, cosmochemistry,

                    238U-230Th-226Ra dating, noble-gas thermochronometry

           extinct nova produced patterns

                 methods - 26Al/26Mg dating, 10Be/10B dating, 41Ca/41K dating, 36Cl/36S dating,

                    extinct radioisotope chronometry, 60Fe/60Ni dating, hafnium-tungsten dating,

                    iodine-xenon dating, 53Mn/53Cr dating, niobium–zirconium chronometry,

                    107Pd-107Ag dating, Pu-Xe dating, 146Sm-142Nd dating, cosmochemistry


    week 7 - Electronic event discrimination

             Electronic event discrimination relates change in electronic characteristics to the passage of time.

                The electrons involved are in rock, crystal, and the earth. Changes occur through entrapment,

                 transferance, and magnetic spin properties. A database of electronic characteristics provides

                 numerous patterns, including age.


            entrapment patterns

                 methods - electron spin resonance, infrared stimulated luminescence, luminescence dating,

                     optically stimulated luminescence, radioluminescence, thermoluminescence

             transferance patterns

                 methods - seismostratigraphy, gamma ray attenuation density, red shift dating


    week 8 - Electronic event discrimination (cont.)


             spin patterns

                  methods - magnetic lead dating, magnetobiostratigraphy, magneto(cyclo)stratigraphy,

                      magnetostratigraphy, paleomagnetic dating


    week 9 - Systemic event discrimination

             Systemic event discrimination takes an 'all of the above' approach to build patterns relating to the

                 passage of time in cosmology, climatology, geophysics, ecology, and culture.


             cosmological patterns

                  method - astrobiochronology, astrochronology, cosmochronology, cyclostratigraphy,


             climatic patterns

                  methods - climatostratigraphy, paleoclimatology

             geophysical patterns

                  methods - detrital thermochronometry, geochemical dating, geochronology, geochronometry,

                     isotopic geochemistry, paleoaltimetry, paleogeography, paleoceanography,

                     paleothermometry, paleotopography, sea level variation, tectonic geomorphology,

                     geoarchaeology, thermochronometry

             cultural patterns

                  methods - cultural affiliation dating, migration analysis

             ecological patterns

                  methods - paleobiogeography, paleobiology, paleobotany, paleoecology, paleoenvironmental

                     reconstruction, paleolimnology, paleoceanography, dendroclimatology,

                     dendroecology, dendrogeomorphology, paleoanthropology, paleodiet reconstruction,



Dating Tools


Chronological Studies & Dating Methods - Time Periods


Chronological Studies & Dating Methods - Materials


Chronological Studies & Dating Methods - Databases





Contact for comments, suggestions, or references


Revised 2/23/15


Pub 3/11