Interfacial dating

The principle of stratigraphic succession states that any given unit of archaeological stratification exists within the stratigraphic sequence from its position between the undermost of all higher units and the uppermost of all lower units and with which it has a physical contact.Understanding a site in modern archaeology is a process of grouping single contexts together in ever larger groups by virtue of their relationships.The principle of lateral continuity states that any archaeological deposit, as originally laid down, will be bounded by the edge of the basin of deposition, or will thin down to a feather edge.Therefore, if any edge of the deposit is exposed in a vertical plane view, a part of its original extent must have been removed by excavation or erosion: its continuity must be sought, or its absence explained.The temporal relationship of "the fill" context to the ditch "cut" context is such that "the fill" occurred later in the sequence; you have to dig a ditch before you can back-fill it.A relationship that is later in the sequence is sometimes referred to as "higher" in the sequence, and a relationship that is earlier, "lower", though this does not refer necessarily to the physical location of the context.These artifacts are referred to as "residual" or "residual finds".

If we know the date of context 1 and context 9 we can deduce that context 7, the backfilling of pit 8, occurred sometime after the date for 9 but before the date for 1, and if we recover an assemblage of artifacts from context 7 that occur nowhere else in the sequence, we have isolated them with a reasonable degree of certainty to a discrete range of time.The concept derives from the geological use of the idea that sedimentation takes place according to uniform principles.When archaeological finds are below the surface of the ground (as is most commonly the case), the identification of the context of each find is vital in enabling the archaeologist to draw conclusions about the site and about the nature and date of its occupation.It is the archaeologist's role to attempt to discover what contexts exist and how they came to be created.Archaeological stratification or sequence is the dynamic superimposition of single units of stratigraphy, or contexts.

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