• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Anthropology, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology More...
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Course convener
    • Dr Rachel Wood
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course
  • Offered in Second Semester 2018
    See Future Offerings

This course provides an overview of the principle dating techniques used within archaeology and, more generally, the Quaternary. Starting with fundamental principles such as stratigraphy and relatively simple methods such as dendrochronology (tree-ring dating), the course will progress to examine some of the main scientifically based methods, such as radiocarbon, U-series, potassium/argon, luminescence and electron spin resonance dating. Students will learn to design dating strategies, evaluate published datasets and build chronological models to interrogate archaeological and palaeoenvironmental hypotheses. Where possible, the course will include visits to the respective laboratories.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Explain the basic principles underlying the dating techniques applied to archaeological and quaternary palaeoenvironmental questions.
  2. Identify which techniques can be used in a variety of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental contexts.
  3. Use examples to illustrate the advantages and limitations of the methods.
  4. Evaluate whether a published chronological dataset is able to answer an archaeological or palaeoenvironmental question
  5. Construct a chronological model to test an archaeological or palaeoenvironmental hypothesis.

Indicative Assessment

Essay, 2000 (50%) LO 3-5
Two hour short answer test (25%) LO 1-2
OxCal exercise -  Construction and evaluation of a Bayesian chronological model with a 500 word report (25%) LO5

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 36 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 12 hours of seminars; and
b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 36 units of courses towards a degree including at least 12 units of 1000-level ARCH, BIOL, CHEM, EMSC, ENVS, MATH, PHYS or SCOM, or with permission of the convenor. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed BIAN6510.

Preliminary Reading

Bayliss, A., 2009. Rolling out revolution: Using radiocarbon dating in archaeology Radiocarbon 51 (1), 123-147.
Bayliss, A., 2015. Quality in Bayesian chronological models in archaeology World Archaeology 47 (4), 677-700.
Bronk Ramsey, C., 2008. Radiocarbon dating: Revolutions in understanding Archaeometry 50 (2), 249-275.
Grün, R., 2006. Direct dating of human fossils American Journal of Physical Anthropology 131 (SUPPL. 43), 2-48.
Grün, R., Eggins, S., Kinsley, L., Moseley, H. and Sambridge, M., 2014. Laser ablation U-series analysis of fossil bones and teeth Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 416, 150-167.
Hellstrom, J. and Pickering, R., 2015. Recent advances and future prospects of the U-Th and U-Pb chronometers applicable to archaeology Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 32-40.
Lane, C.S., Cullen, V.L., White, D., Bramham-Law, C.W.F. and Smith, V.C., 2014. Cryptotephra as a dating and correlation tool in archaeology Journal of Archaeological Science 42 (1), 42-50.
Penkman, K., 2010. Amino acid geochronology: Its impact on our understanding of the Quaternary stratigraphy of the British Isles Journal of Quaternary Science 25 (4), 501-514.
Rhodes, E., 2011. Optically stimulated luminescence dating of sediments over the past 200,000 years. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 2011. 39:461–88
Roberts, R.G., Jacobs, Z., Li, B., Jankowski, N.R., Cunningham, A.C. and Rosenfeld, A.B., 2015. Optical dating in archaeology: Thirty years in retrospect and grand challenges for the future Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 41-60.
Wood, R., 2015. From revolution to convention: The past, present and future ofradiocarbon dating Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 61-72.

Areas of Interest

  • Earth and Marine Sciences
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Forensic Anthropology
  • Asia Pacific Studies




Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $3660
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2018 $5160
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
7173 23 Jul 2018 30 Jul 2018 31 Aug 2018 26 Oct 2018 In Person N/A

Responsible Officer: Registrar, Student Administration / Page Contact: Website Administrator / Frequently Asked Questions