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Prehistoric chronologies

In the absence of written history, with its chronicles and king lists, late 19th century archaeologists found that they could develop relative chronologies based on pottery techniques and styles. In the field of Egyptology, William Flinders Petrie pioneered sequence dating to penetrate pre-dynastic Neolithic times, using groups of contemporary artefacts deposited together at a single time in graves and working backwards methodically from the earliest historical phases of Egypt.

Known wares discovered at strata in sometimes quite distant sites, the product of trade, helped extend the network of chronologies. Some cultures have retained the name applied to them in reference to characteristic forms, for lack of an idea of what they called themselves: "The Beaker People" in northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BCE, for example. The study of the means of placing pottery and other cultural artefacts into some kind of order proceeds in two phases, classification and typology: Classification creates categories for the purposes of description, and typology seeks to identify and analyse changes that allow artefacts to be placed into sequences.

Laboratory techniques developed particularly after mid-20th century helped constantly revise and refine the chronologies developed for specific cultural areas. Unrelated dating methods help reinforce a chronology, an axiom of corroborative evidence. Ideally, archaeological materials used for dating a site should complement each other and provide a means of cross-checking. Conclusions drawn from just one unsupported technique are usually regarded as unreliable.

Bayesian analysis has recently started to be routinely applied in the analysis of chronological information, including radiocarbon-derived dates.

Several legendary sources tend to assign unrealistically long lifespan to pre-historical heroes and monarchs (e.g. Egypt, Hebrews, Japanese), if the number of years there reported are understood as years of more than 340 days. One potent explanation for this has been that there have been more than one harvest during the actual year, and memories evolving to legends tend to count each growth period as separate year.

Though chronologies formulated before the 1960s are subject to serious scepticism today, more recent results are more robust than readily appears to journalists and enthusiastic amateurs.


III. Give synonyms to the underlined words:

· an absolute chronology;

· a coherent system;

· to recognize the connection;

· familiar chronological subjects;

· frequently reckon back;

· arrangement of events;

· to penetrate times;

· an axiom of corroborative evidence;

· to revise and refine the chronologies;

· to reinforce a chronology;

· potent explanation;

· for the purposes of description


IV. Explain the expressions in other words:

o to be deposited together at a single time;

o to cover the same period of time;

o to precede but does not exactly coincide with

o to provide a means of cross-checking;

o to develop relative chronologies based on;

o legendary sources

V. Study the given below lexical units (provide the Ukrainian variants):

· science of locating events in time;

· a strange sort of event;

· meaning of a coherent system of numbered calendar years;

· complementary fundamental concepts;

· frequently reckoned back;

· to precede but does not exactly coincide with;

· to be either relative or absolute;

· familiar chronological subjects;

· in order to simplify certain calculations;

· to reinforce a chronology;

· lack of an idea;

· to identify and analyse changes;

· to revise and refine the chronologies


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