They identified a succession of Ice Ages alternating with temperate conditions (glacials and interglacials) which - if they could be dated - would reveal much about the evolution of early humans in the context of changing environmental conditions.Cores extracted from ocean floor deposits reveal variations in oxygen isotopes in the shells and skeletal material of dead marine creatures, which reflect fluctuations in global temperature and the volume of the ocean.
First used, and likely invented by archaeologist Sir William Flinders-Petrie in 1899, seriation (or sequence dating) is based on the idea that artifacts change over time.
Like tail fins on a Cadillac, artifact styles and characteristics change over time, coming into fashion, then fading in popularity. The standard graphical result of seriation is a series of "battleship curves," which are horizontal bars representing percentages plotted on a vertical axis.
If a context containing burnt debris and broken artefacts is excavated on a site from a historical period, it is tempting to search the local historical framework for references to warfare or a disaster in the region, and to date the excavated context accordingly.
The transformation of archaeological dating that began around 1950 continues, but archaeologists may overlook the revolution in scientific dating that had already taken place in geology during the first half of the twentieth century; from this wider perspective, the emergence of radiocarbon dating may seem slightly less dramatic Accurate knowledge of the age of the Earth was of little direct help to archaeologists, but it emphasised the potential of scientific dating techniques.
Cross-dating of sites, comparing geologic strata at one site with another location and extrapolating the relative ages in that manner, is still an important dating strategy used today, primarily when sites are far too old for absolute dates to have much meaning.