• Class Number 7663
  • Term Code 3160
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Rachel Wood
    • AsPr David Heslop
    • EmPr Keith Fifield
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 26/07/2021
  • Class End Date 29/10/2021
  • Census Date 14/09/2021
  • Last Date to Enrol 02/08/2021
SELT Survey Results

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 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; and
  5. construct a chronological model to test an archaeological or palaeoenvironmental hypothesis.

Research-Led Teaching

This course is is guided by research-led teaching.

  1. It will include the research of several researchers at the ANU.
  2. It aims to teach you how to critically assess, analyse and interpret chronological data. The tutorials will begin gently by providing exercises to help explain the methods (weeks 1-3). In later tutorials, after a few exercises to aid understanding of the methods, you'll develop skills to critically analyse a series of papers related to major research questions (weeks 4-10).
  3. You will learn data analysis skills used by geochronologists (week 6, tutorial). OxCal is a widely used program designed to calibrate and statistically analyse radiocarbon dates, and the associated assessment will require you to build and interpret models to answer a current question in archaeology (there is no right answer!).

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Lecture: Introduction to time and temporality (lecture) and scientific basics (guided reading) Tutorial: Introduction to materials
2 Lecture: Stratigraphy, layers and tie points Tutorial: Dendrochronology - climate change and fire
3 Lecture: Radiocarbon dating I Tutorial: Radiocarbon labs, methods and sampling
4 Lecture: Radiocarbon dating II Tutorial: Radiocarbon - when did Neanderthals become extinct?
5 Lecture: Chronological modelling Tutorial: High precision chronologies - students to vote on topic
6 Lecture: Short answer test Tutorial: OxCal modelling workshop Short answer test to be completed during lecture, online OxCal modelling assessment set in tutorial
7 Lecture: Argon-Argon dating and Amino Acid Racimisation Tutorial: Argon-Argon dating - when did modern humans evolve? OxCal modelling assessment due 22nd September
8 Lecture: U-series Tutorial: U-series - when did modern humans leave Africa?
9 Lecture: Trapped charge methods Tutorial: Trapped charge methods - when did the Australian megafauna go extinct? Essay - title and short summary paragraph due 8th October
10 Lecture: Cosmogenic dating methods (Kieth Fifield) Tutorial: Multiple methods - Dating rock art
11 Lecture: Magnetic dating methods (David Heslop) Tutorial: Revision session
12 Lecture: Short answer test Tutorial: Feedback and course wrap up Short answer test to be completed during lecture, online Essay due 12th November

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Learning Outcomes
Construction and evaluation of a Bayesian chronological model 30 % 22/09/2021 LO5
Short answer test 1 15 % 30/08/2021 LO1,2
Short answer test 2 15 % 25/10/2021 LO1,2
Essay 40 % 12/11/2021 LO3,4,5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using 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. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the Academic Integrity . In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation at tutorials is required. Ideally this will be in person, but online is also fine.

Lectures should be listened to and the embedded questions answered before attending tutorials.

For weeks 4-10, a tutorial reading list will be provided. Time will be provided for you to read in class, but it is a good idea to look at the paper before attending!



Assessment Task 1

Value: 30 %
Due Date: 22/09/2021
Learning Outcomes: LO5

Construction and evaluation of a Bayesian chronological model

You will construct at least 2 Bayesian models to test an archaeological hypothesis. This will be written up as a short 500 - 1000 word report. The work will be started in the tutorial in week 6, and be continued independently. All data, methods and the archaeological question will be introduced in the tutorial. A rubric will be included on the Wattle page. To be submitted via Turnitin.

Assessment Task 2

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 30/08/2021
Learning Outcomes: LO1,2

Short answer test 1

Short answer test covering content covered in the lectures from the first half of the semester. Most answers will be multiple choice/ single word. The longest answers expected will be one paragraph. This is an open book online test, lasting 45 minutes. Although open book, you will not have time to look up many answers, so revise as you would do for a normal test!

Assessment Task 3

Value: 15 %
Due Date: 25/10/2021
Learning Outcomes: LO1,2

Short answer test 2

Short answer test covering content covered in the lectures from the second half of the semester. Most answers will be multiple choice/ single word. The longest answers expected will be one paragraph. This is an open book online test, lasting 45 minutes. Although open book, you will not have time to look up many answers, so revise as you would do for a normal test!

Assessment Task 4

Value: 40 %
Due Date: 12/11/2021
Learning Outcomes: LO3,4,5


A 2000 word essay on the topic of your choice, using at least 10 references. This is designed to showcase your ability to critically analyse chronologies. Feel free to incorporate all skills learnt during the course, including chronological modelling. A rubric will be placed on the Wattle site. To be submitted via Turnitin.

You will need to email a title and summary paragraph (max c.250 words) to the course convener by 8th October. This is not assessed, but will give time to receive feedback on whether the title and essay is suitable. You are encouraged to choose a major question within the Quaternary period where chronology has played an important role, and to critically assess whether the data available can help answer that question. Essays may relate to a broad question or particular sites. Where a topic is similar to a tutorial topic, alternative case studies/journal articles must be used. You may also choose a more technical topic where you talk about how a specific aspect of a method has contributed to a field. However, please do not simply repeat the content of the lectures with detailed descriptions of how methods work. Feel free to pick any question you like depending on your background and particular interests, but if you are struggling for ideas have a chat to me. Here are some popular topics:

Big picture topics (in addition to those listed as tutorial topics):

Abrupt climate change

Human arrival in New Zealand

Human arrival in the Americas

Early hominid evolution

Thera eruption

Iron Age chronology in Levant

Neolithic burial monuments

Technical topics:

Radiocarbon Miyake events

Radiocarbon freshwater reservoir effects

Uses of the radiocarbon bomb curve - forensics, wildlife forensics and biology

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of the ANU culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically, committing to honest and responsible scholarly practice and upholding these values with respect and fairness.

The ANU commits to assisting all members of our community to understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to be familiar with the academic integrity principle and Academic Misconduct Rule, uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with.

The Academic Misconduct Rule is in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Very minor breaches of the academic integrity principle may result in a reduction of marks of up to 10% of the total marks available for the assessment. The ANU offers a number of online and in person services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. Visit the Academic Skills website for more information about academic integrity, your responsibilities and for assistance with your assignments, writing skills and study.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

For some forms of assessment (hand written assignments, art works, laboratory notes, etc.) hard copy submission is appropriate when approved by the Associate Dean (Education). Hard copy submissions must utilise the Assignment Cover Sheet. Please keep a copy of tasks completed for your records.

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. Extensions may be granted for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Rachel Wood

Research Interests

Radiocarbon dating; Quaternary geochronology; Stable isotope analysis; Palaeolithic, particularly early modern human dispersals; Neolithic

Dr Rachel Wood

By Appointment
AsPr David Heslop

Research Interests

AsPr David Heslop

EmPr Keith Fifield

Research Interests

EmPr Keith Fifield

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