• Offered by School of Archaeology and Anthropology
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject Archaeology
  • Areas of interest Earth and Marine Sciences, Anthropology, Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Forensic Anthropology

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.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Essay (2000 words) (50) [LO 3,4,5]
  2. Two x one hour short answer tests (12.5% each) (25) [LO 1,2]
  3. OxCal exercise - Construction and evaluation of a Bayesian chronological model (500 word report) (25) [LO 5]

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. 

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed 36 units of courses towards a degree, including 12 units of 1000 level Archaeology (ARCH), Biology (BIOL), Chemistry (CHEM), Earth and Marine Science (EMSC), Environmental Science (ENVS), Maths (MATH), Physics (PHYS), or Science Communication (SCOM) courses, or with permission of the convener. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ARCH6042, BIAN3010, or BIAN6510.

Prescribed Texts

Not applicable

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 of radiocarbon dating. Journal of Archaeological Science 56, 61-72.


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

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2023 $3960
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2023 $5100
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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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
6733 24 Jul 2023 31 Jul 2023 31 Aug 2023 27 Oct 2023 In Person View

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