Over the 150 years of the discipline of scientific archaeology, researchers have used many different ways to determine how old an artifact or archaeological site is.
It is commonly assumed that if the remains or elements to be dated are older than the human species, the disciplines which study them are sciences such geology or paleontology, among some others.
Nevertheless, the range of time within archaeological dating can be enormous compared to the average lifespan of a singular human being.
In addition, because of its particular relation with past human presence or past human activity, archaeology uses almost all the dating methods that it shares with the other sciences, but with some particular variations, like the following: Seriation is a relative dating method (see, above, the list of relative dating methods).
An example of a practical application of seriation, is the comparison of the known style of artefacts such as stone tools or pottery.
Dating is very important in archaeology for constructing models of the past, as it relies on the integrity of dateable objects and samples.
Many disciplines of archaeological science are concerned with dating evidence, but in practice several different dating techniques must be applied in some circumstances, thus dating evidence for much of an archaeological sequence recorded during excavation requires matching information from known absolute or some associated steps, with a careful study of stratigraphic relationships.
Similarly, pollen grains released by seed-bearing plants became fossilized in rock layers.
If a certain kind of pollen is found in an archaeological site, scientists can check when the plant that produced that pollen lived to determine the relative age of the site.
For a non-exhaustive list of relative dating methods and relative dating applications used in geology, paleontology or archaeology, see the following: Same as geologists or paleontologists, archaeologists are also brought to determine the age of ancient materials, but in their case the areas of their studies are restricted to the history of both ancient and recent humans.
Thus, to be considered as archaeological, the remains, objects or artifacts to be dated must be related to human activity.
In this relative dating method, Latin terms ante quem and post quem are usually used to indicate both the oldest and the most recent possible moments when an event occurred or an artifact was left in a stratum.