• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Transitional
  • Course subject Biological Anthropology
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Asia Pacific Studies, Environmental Science
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

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:

  1. explain the 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. critically evaluate whether a published chronological dataset is able to answer an archaeological or palaeoenvironmental question; and
  5. construct a chronological model to test an archaeological or palaeoenvironmental hypothesis.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Essay, 4000 words (50%) (50) [LO 3,4,5]
  2. Two one hour short answer tests (12.5% each) (25) [LO 1,2]
  3. OxCal exercise - Construction and evaluation of a Bayesian chronological model with a 500 word report (25) [LO 5]

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:
a) 60 hours of contact over 12 weeks: 24 hours of lectures and 36 hours of seminars; and
b) 70 hours of independent student research, reading and writing.


Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed BIAN3010

Prescribed Texts

No prescribed texts are required

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.


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
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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