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Plotting several curves can allow the archaeologist to develop a relative chronology for an entire site or group of sites.

For detailed information about how seriation works, see Seriation: A Step by Step Description.

There are dendrochronological records for Europe and the Aegean, and the International Tree Ring Database has contributions from 21 different countries.

The main drawback to dendrochronology is its reliance on the existence of relatively long-lived vegetation with annual growth rings.

And, outside of certain periods in our past, there simply were no chronologically dated objects, or the necessary depth and detail of history that would assist in chronologically dating civilizations.

Two broad categories of dating or chronometric techniques that archaeologists use are called relative and absolute dating.

First used, and likely invented by archaeologist Sir William Flinders-Petrie in 1899, seriation (or sequence dating) is based on the idea that artifacts change over time.

Like tail fins on a Cadillac, artifact styles and characteristics change over time, coming into fashion, then fading in popularity. The standard graphical result of seriation is a series of "battleship curves," which are horizontal bars representing percentages plotted on a vertical axis.

Clark Wissler, an anthropologist researching Native American groups in the Southwest, recognized the potential for such dating, and brought Douglass subfossil wood from puebloan ruins.

Unfortunately, the wood from the pueblos did not fit into Douglass's record, and over the next 12 years, they searched in vain for a connecting ring pattern, building a second prehistoric sequence of 585 years.

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