The Ways Archaeologists use Uranium, Volcanoes, and Trapped Electrons for Dating

COVID-19 officially sucks. Thankfully, Rob Nelson is posting great content at StoneAgeMan to help you get through this quarantine, and one of those pieces is a new article by yours truly.

This article wraps up the archaeological dating methods series on StoneAgeMan by covering three highly-specialized, but useful, ways to date artifacts: uranium-series, potassium-argon, and luminescence dating.

As usual, below are the first few paragraphs of my new article. Please read the rest on StoneAgeMan!


A volcano erupting.
Image by Adrian Malec from Pixabay.

We’ve covered several dating methods on StoneAgeMan, like dendrochronology and radiocarbon dating, but there are still more ways archaeologists can tell how old a site or artifact is. Three of the most clever techniques utilize uranium, volcanoes, and trapped electrons.

We’ll touch on each of them below, and provide examples of places where archaeologists have used them.

Uranium-Series Dating

Did you know that scientists can tell how old a cave painting is by dating the rocks on top of or underneath it? Uranium-series (U-series) dating is the tool they use to accomplish such a feat, and here’s how it works:

Like radiocarbon dating, Uranium-series (U-series) methods rely on radioactive decay. They track the breakdown of two isotopes of uranium – 235U and 238U – into a series of “daughter isotopes.”


That’s all for the preview! If you want to learn more about these fascinating dating techniques (and no, Beaton, I’m not talking about courtship when I say “dating”) then check out the full article on StoneAgeMan!

4 Thoughts

  1. I knew that I say as I put away my matchmaking notebook titled Dating Sciencey People

    I have been to a cave with rock paintings I have always been curious to know if there was a way one could tell how long back they were done. Maybe if people knew how old the paintings were the place would get a wee bit more attention its not a heritage site or anything neither is there any attempts at preservation except its being a cave up a rather inaccessible mountain otherwise kids would have painted full of graffiti ha!
    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

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