Flinders petrie seriation dating

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He was given the name is William Matthew Flinders Petrie. Petrie's mother, Anne, had a love for science, namely fossils and natural minerals. Anne Petrie was a daughter of Captain Matthew Flinders, who was a celebrated early explorer of the coasts of Australia. Petrie taught himself trigonometry and geometry at a young age, with particular interest in varied standards of measurements.

Petrie's father was a surveyor who taught his son how to use the most modern surveying equipment of the time. Petrie would go about England measuring Churches, buildings, and ancient megalithic ruins, such as Stonehenge. At thirteen, he read Piazzi Smyth's Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramids ; his interest flourished from this young age and Petrie convinced himself that he would one day see the pyramids for himself. Flinders began as a Practical Surveyor in south England. During this time he reverted back to studying Stonehenge. He was able to determine the unit of measurement used for the construction of Stonehenge, so in , at the age of 24, Flinders Petrie published his first book called Stonehenge: Plans, Description, and Theories ; this book would become the basis for future discoveries at that site.

That same year, he began his more than forty years of exploration and examination of Egypt and the Middle East. During these times he spent some two years using an old rock-tomb as his residence and base of operations. Over the next several years, he went on many excursions to survey ancient remains and other sites across England. Armed with maps and records from the British Museum, he systematically surveyed and measured dozens of ancient sites, including Stonehenge with the help of his father, and produced results that were far more complete and accurate than those already in possession of the Museum Drower These excursions gave him invaluable experience in not only survey techniques, but also the ability to measure quickly and accurately, the ability to gauge distances by eye, and an incredibly developed visual memory Drower Being raised a devout Christian and believer in the literal interpretation of the Bible, this gave Petrie the link he needed to connect ancient remains to his faith, and one that would interest him enough to set him on a path to becoming one of the most influential Egyptologists in history.

Diospolis Parva was the name given to the site of Hu in Egypt, which was excavated by Petrie from to Flinders-Petrie This location lies approximately halfway between Abydos and Dendereh. All of these sites reside on the west side of the Nile River, which was considered by the ancient Egyptians to be the land of the dead, and was where they performed numerous burials. In order to explain the significance of the work performed at Diospolis Parva, it is necessary to first explain the previous excavations performed by Petrie earlier in his career.

In , Petrie excavated Koptos searching for remains of the race that was to become the most prominent race in Egyptian culture. A discovery was made in one of the temple foundations of three figures with surface carvings; it was immediately apparent by this discovery that these works of art predated any known artifacts in Egypt at the time. According to Petrie, all later discoveries confirmed that the artwork found in the temple base were indeed the earliest works of the Egyptian race, long before the establishment of the Dynasties.

Also found were pieces of prehistoric pottery which demonstrated that Koptos was one of the earliest sites of Egyptian civilization, and illustrated early models of pottery Flinders-Petrie Subsequent to his discoveries at Koptos, in Petrie unearthed nearly three thousand graves along the west bank of the Nile between Naqada and Ballas. These graves were believed to be of a civilization different from the ancient Egyptians, predating the Dynasties.

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In , French archaeologist M. Morgan chose to classify these findings as prehistoric, despite the fact that he had no significant evidence to support this belief.

According to Petrie, there was evidence to suggest that Morgan had predated these graves; however, their beliefs could not be proven either way. He could not have been brought to this conclusion sooner due to the insubstantial knowledge of the early dynastic periods. Later on, in , Petrie and his team uncovered several cemeteries at Abadiyeh and Hu dating back to the prehistoric period. Petrie states that from the discoveries at Naqada, they had already amassed a compilation of over forms pottery dating back to that period, which they implemented to classify every piece of pottery they found at Abadiyeh and Hu.

Archaeological Dating Methods

In order to deal with the sheer amount of pottery and classify their findings in any way that made sense, Petrie and his team had to come up with a definitive system that was both easy to use as well as detailed enough for the results to be interpreted by anyone who was not directly involved in the classification process. Petrie first began the classification process by converting the forms into a corpus of numbers. From the various pottery design styles, nine basic Kinds were separated: These Kinds define and categorize pottery according to the design characteristics.

The forms in these Kinds evolve and change over time, while still largely retaining the same design characteristic Flinders-Petrie Forms remain, however, a completely separate classification that does not necessarily refer to a specific Kind Flinders-Petrie Petrie has defined at least 98 different Forms Flinders-Petrie In order to place the found pottery in sequence of creation, Petrie had to represent the pots according to their Kind and Form, in such a way that the pots can be efficiently and easily compared to one another Flinders-Petrie This would not be possible through drawings due to the massive volume of pots, and also due to the inaccuracy involved in the drawings.


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Each of these slips has nine columns which represent the different Kinds. The Form number of each pot was then written in the column corresponding to the Kind Flinders-Petrie These slips could then be easily compared, allowing Petrie and his team to compare one archaeological site with another. This system allowed not only for a chronology of the artifacts, but ultimately for a chronology of the sites themselves.

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Space Archaeology

The chronology of artifacts was used to construct an archaeological timeline, which assisted Petrie and his team with the dating of future finds. Petrie began his chronology with the wavy-handled vases, because these pieces have the most clear evolutionary progression based on changes in the Form and changes in the contents Flinders-Petrie The wavy-handles vases begin with an actual wavy handle; however, the handle degrades, becoming less prominent, and eventually transforms into a design representative of the original handle Flinders-Petrie The contents of the early wavy-handled vases consisted of aromatic ointment, then ointment covered by a layer of clay Flinders-Petrie The contents then progressed to clay scented with ointment, and finally clay alone was contained in the vessels Flinders-Petrie Based on the evolutionary progression of wavy-handled pottery, Petrie was able to determine the chronology of various other potteries.

The second step of the process involves separating the wavy-handled pottery W from the late pottery L. Late pottery acquired its name because it has continued on after earlier potteries, and can be identified with later historical Forms of pottery Flinders-Petrie The L and W pottery are placed in order and then subdivided into Forms which come earlier and Forms which come later. According to Petrie, the earliest and latest samples of pottery should be placed as close together as possible in order to maintain the greatest accuracy Flinders-Petrie Through the chronology of the W pottery, it becomes clear that all L pottery falls within the range of the W pottery.

The L types that do not fall within the range of W are then ordered beyond the W types and the chronology is continued Flinders-Petrie The problem of chronology then becomes the issue of ordering those pieces that came before W pottery. Those pots with the greatest number of styles with the presence of W are classified as the closest to W Flinders-Petrie As W becomes less prevalent in other pots, those pots are classified as much older than W and so on.

Also, the presence of cross lined C pottery is observed; C pottery is more prevalent in the very early graves, where W is absent, so it is then determined that C is at the beginning of the chronology Flinders-Petrie As types associated with C disappear and types with W increase, it is reasonable to believe that C in fact does precede W Flinders-Petrie The C pottery is then grouped as closely together as possible, placing similar types of C together.

Seriation (archaeology)

The decorated pottery D is examined next, and the types were sorted by occurrence corresponding to the other Forms of pottery that have already been discussed and sorted Flinders-Petrie The next phase of chronology involves dividing the graves that have been sorted in order into fifty equal stages; these stages were referred to by Petrie as sequence dates S. All other graves that contain enough information to be classified are then incorporated into the chronology Flinders-Petrie In order to determine the period after C and before D and W, Petrie tests the graves statistically to establish whether there are significantly more new Forms that were not revealed in the C period Flinders-Petrie He concluded that several graves that were considered post-C should be redesignated as C period Flinders- Petrie This conclusion is confirmed by sorting C pottery according to the other classifications of pottery, ignoring the C completely Flinders-Petrie This allowed Petrie to verify that the pieces fit in the chronology with respect to C and all other factors.

The sequence dates were then re-calibrated due to several changes that had been made in the chronology Flinders-Petrie Once these statistical measures have been thoroughly implemented, Petrie reexamines the ranges of each type of pottery.

As stated earlier in his analysis, Petrie believed that the smaller the range of a given type of pottery was, the more likely it was to be accurate Flinders-Petrie As the ranges were examined, those pieces of pottery that were farther away chronologically from the rest were brought closer in, if possible, in order to attain a more precise range Flinders-Petrie Many of these beautiful pots are on display in the Petrie Museum.

The Petrie Museum also holds in its archives his Sequence Dating slips, each of which records the different types of pottery that were found in individual tombs. Using the codes for pottery noted on these thin strips of card he noticed things like different types of decorated pottery that were never found together in the same tomb and separated these graves into two groups.

By continuing to group together pottery types, grouping like with like and separating out dissimilar forms Petrie sorted slips into an order.

He called it sequence dating. Petrie had managed to do it all on paper. Mathematicians are also impressed and it was the first instance of mathematical modelling in archaeology. This type of chronological work puts things into an order — a sequence — but it does not actually measure time.