A New Approach to Archaeological Dating Using Geomagnetic Field Modelling

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Earth Surface Dynamics


Details of the geomagnetic field are recorded in fired archaeological material such as kilns, hearths, pottery, bricks and tiles. As the geomagnetic field varies over time this information can be experimentally recovered and used as a dating tool. Currently in the UK only in situ material can be dated this way as only the directional variations of the magnetic field are known (unlike in many other countries where the full vector is known). Current practise is to use a reference curve constructed from data reduced to a reference location, and to reduce the magnetic data in the same way before comparing with the curve. This is because the geomagnetic field varies spatially as well as temporally. Whilst this works, the change in position introduces errors. We propose to take a different approach to archaeomagnetic dating by producing a geomagnetic field model specifically for the UK. This will mean that directional and intensity information for ANY UK location can be generated and used to date material. The data to be included in the model will come from already existing databases, literature and most importantly new experimental determinations from well dated archaeological material. At present there is minimal intensity data so this will be the focus of experimental work. The microwave method will be used to determine the intensity of the field from dated UK samples supplied by agreed collaborators. The final output will be a dating tool for the UK that will be applicable for all burnt archaeological material. Once established in the UK this type of modelling can then be applied globally.


10 25 50
Description Demonstration of the facility of global field modeling methods to produce archaeomagnetic models for local fields.

Demonstration of the variation in magnetic field intensity prior to 1840
Exploitation Route Ongoing work, particularly on the evolution of the geomagnetic field 1800-1840, currently being undertaken as part of my Gauss Professorship.
Sectors Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description NERC standard grants
Amount £567,890 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/I013873/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2011 
End 09/2015
Description GFZ archaeomagnetic modelling 
Organisation Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Department German Research Centre for Geosciences
Country Germany 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaborative work on the modelling of the archaeomagnetic field. My primary contribution is in methodology of the modelling
Collaborator Contribution Generation of the models, particularly collection and treatment of the data. Lead author on papers.
Impact Publications listed in portfolio with Korte as lead author.
Start Year 2008