Tag Archives: archaeology

Valentine’s Day Archaeology Style

Everyone likes to bring up radiocarbon dating for this Hallmark day of love. There’s other kinds of dating we archaeologists use too!

We’ve also got…
Obsidian hydration dating
Tree ring dating (dendrochronology)
Type dating (seriation)
Potassium-Argon dating

The list goes on, my friends! I’m sure you’ve heard the joke “Archaeologists will date any old thing.” It’s true. As a group, we looooove to get dates. Dates are closer to concrete answers. We may never have absolute answers, but we really like to get close to them if possible.

Here at TOA, we have Origer’s Obsidian Laboratory. Guess what we do there? Yep, it’s an obsidian dating service. Flakes and projectile points alike flock to our lab to get a date. We cut, grind, and slip pieces of obsidian between glass to read hydration bands. Go check out our Lab’s page to learn more.

Tree ring dating helps calibrate the ever-so-glamorous carbon dating system. Most people have at the very least heard of radiocarbon dating, but few knew that the simple act of counting tree rings helps calibrate something so obviously scientific.

Dating by types, known as seriation, is a form of relative dating that compares items based on where they fit into the known order of manufacture. I assure you, it has nothing to do with dating your Aunt Sally. Let’s say you’ve three projectile points that are from the same site, but shaped differently and found at different levels. You can correlate their age to the type based on the levels they came from (assuming the site is undisturbed of course). That’s thanks to the law of superposition, which tells us that the top level is the youngest and things get older as we go down into the ground. Once you know the seriation for projectile points (or any other type of artifact) in an area, you can perform this type of relative dating!

Potassium-Argon dating is used on fossilized human remains. It isn’t done much around here, but is popular elsewhere. In practice, it’s much like radiocarbon dating since it deals with measuring the product of an isotope’s decay in relation to its half-life.

So there you have it, folks. A brief look at some other forms of archaeological dating!



Making Connections

As the year continues to seemingly zip by, it’s nearly March! In fact, it’ll be here tomorrow. Today is a day that only exists every four years. In the intervening years we pretend our calendar makes sense, but that’s another story for another blog.

Speaking of calendars though, the Society for California Archaeology Annual Meeting is coming up fast! At the end of March, Archaeologists (and other friendly people interested in the field) from up and down the state will be gathering in San Diego to share research, ideas, plans, and reconnect with each other. Panels and presentations abound during the day, and by night we get our social networking on– the real life kind (but I’m sure some of us will tweet or status about it).

Last year, the SCA Annual Meeting took place in our neck of the woods, in Rohnert Park and our office was in charge of local arrangements, which means we had a lot to do in order for the meeting to run smoothly. We had to coordinate with the hotel conference venue, plan the silent auction, run the silent auction/party, and coordinate the volunteers among many other little things you don’t think about until you’ve got to put something like this together! As a matter of fact, I was the Volunteer Coordinator. Let me tell you, coordinating volunteers of any kind is much akin to herding cats. No offense to any of my volunteers, but juggling the schedules of 25 people for a conference a few months down the line through spotty emails is quite the challenge.

This year, I am again volunteering, but this time as one of the cats being herded. We’ll see how this year’s coordinator manages things! I do wish her luck, and I’ll do my part to help ensure the meeting runs smoothly. Without the volunteers, the meeting would have a very difficult time!


SCA logo

You Archaeologists Dig All the Time, Right?

Let’s play a game!

I say “archaeology” you think of…?

Indiana Jones fighting Nazis and recovering things because they "belong in a museum!"

Digging lots of square holes in the ground

Digging and Indiana Jones, am I right? Perhaps even *shudder* dinosaurs?

Well, these days a lot of the archaeology done in the United States (especially in California) is not the digging kind, and usually not for purely academic purposes either  (and NEVER the dinosaur kind, since that actually falls into the field of paleontology). Most of the archaeology done is contract compliance archaeology, meaning that it is being done to comply with the laws and regulations. Which rarely means digging.

We do surveys of land looking to be developed to see if there is any surface evidence of archeological remains.

We do research on the properties and the people who lived there in the past.

We monitor ground disturbing activities at sensitive locations and document any archaeological finds.

We read and write lots of technical reports.

We study the hydration rate of different sources of obsidian. (Our office does, anyway)

We create management plans for known cultural resources (archaeological sites, historic buildings, traditional cultural places) which involves assessing the resources for significance under the law, which sometimes results in the development avoiding the resource altogether, capping the resource to protect it from damage, and a whole slew of other options! Digging actually becomes a last resort when a resource can’t be avoided or protected in some other way; when a developer is set on a location, the best way to lessen the effect on the resource is to record it in the most thorough manner we know- digging it up and writing every little detail down!

This is just a brief touch on all the things we do as archaeologists. Who says we can’t do it all?

And so, it begins…

As we begin our journey around the sun this year, so begins this blog.

This blog will be a collection of tales, essays, presentations,  stories, jokes, photos, and SO much more related to archaeology and history as seen and experienced by the people who make up Tom Origer & Associates. Check us out at  origer.com to learn more about our firm and the services we provide as cultural resource managers.

Some of us here at the office thought a blog would be a great way to disseminate knowledge, begin dialogues, and make ourselves known. Plus, hello, bandwagon! The Society for Historical Archaeology just began a blog, the Archaeological Institute of America has a blog (incidentally, I came up with our blog name before seeing theirs) , Terry Brock does all sorts of blogging and social media. It’s a great way to interact with peers and the public.

The whole idea of blogging is a new concept for some of our staff, so things might be a bit slow at first, but I practically grew up on the internet, so I’ll make sure we get this thing going! We would also love to hear what you have to say, about our posts, about our field, about us!

Here’s to 2012 and the broadening of horizons, cheers!


What kind of things would you like to see in future posts? Comment below or send us an email at info_martian@origer.com