Dating is a key part of archaeology, because of the common need for objects and events of interest to be dated, so that they can be arranged in the correct temporal sequence. But how confident are you in understanding and interpreting chronological data? This short course will introduce participants to the basics of geochronology with the focus on three key methods: palaeomagnetism, radiocarbon and optical dating.  Participants will learn the basics of each method as well as their relative strengths and weaknesses. The course provides a practical approach to sampling and the interpretation of age estimates, including their accuracy and precision. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn about the practicalities of designing dating programs and building simple Bayesian age models. Such models are commonly employed to construct chronological frameworks for archaeological settings.


On successful completion of this short course, participants will be able to:
1. Understand the fundamental basis, advantages and limitations of palaeomagnetism, radiocarbon and optically stimulated luminescence dating and their application to archaeological contexts;
2 . Critically evaluate the quality and reliability of individual age estimates obtained using different techniques;
3. Apply knowledge of chronological techniques and site formation processes to link age estimates with sedimentary context;
4. Locate, synthesise and evaluate data to investigate and propose answers to chronological questions;
5. Construct simple Bayesian chronological models.


Dr. Ángel Carrancho Alonso is a lecturer and researcher in Prehistory and Archaeomagnetism at the Paleomagnetism Research Group of the University of Burgos, Spain. His research focuses on dating of archaeological fire contexts, palaeomagnetism of geological materials, geochronology, and experimental archaeology. He has participated and directed several international projects, including the study of archaeological contexts of Neanderthal pyrotechnology and Holocene combustion features.
Dr. Rachel Wood is the director of the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford, UK, and a researcher in a wide variety of projects using radiocarbon to answer crucial questions such as Middle – Upper Palaeolithic of Iberia, the arrival of people in Australia and the first farmers in Vietnam. She has been also working in developing methods to overcome the issue of rapid degradation of organic materials from archaeological contexts.
Dr. Zenobia Jacobs, is a professor at the University of Wollongong, Australia, where she is Head of the Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) laboratory and an Australian Research Council (ACR) Future Fellow and a Chief Investigator at the ACR Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage (CABAH).Her research focuses on the evolutionary history of genus Homo be developing and using individual grains of quartz for optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of archaeological and geological sediments. Her work in Africa, Australia, Europe, and Siberia has been recognized by several international awards.

List of topics

1. Introduction to geochronology
a. Relative and numerical dating methods
b. Uncertainty
c. Accuracy and precision
d. Terminology

2. Palaeomagnetism
a. Historical overview
b. Basic principles
c. Magnetostratigraphic dating (polarity reversals & geomagnetic excursions)
d. Archaeomagnetic dating and other chronological applications.
e. Sampling techniques and materials
f. Measurement of the magnetization
g. Interpretation of results
h. Dating procedure and reporting results

3. Fundamentals of radiometric dating
a. Elements and isotopes
b. Stable vs radioactive isotopes
c. Radioactive decay
d. Half-lives

4. Radiocarbon dating – a radioactive-decay dating method
a. Historical overview
b. Basic principles and main assumptions
c. Sampling strategy and materials
d. Contamination and laboratory pretreatment of samples
e. Radiocarbon measurement
f. Corrections and calibration
g. Age estimates and interpretation
h. Reporting standards

5. Optical dating – a radiation-exposure dating method
a. Historical overview
b. Basic principles and assumptions
c. Sampling and sampling strategy
d. Dose rate determination and interpretation
e. Equivalent dose determination and interpretation, including data display
f. Age estimates and interpretation
g. Reporting standards

6. Chronologies in context
a. Not all age estimates are created equal
b. Why sample context is critical to the question being asked
c. Designing a dating program

7. Bayesian age modelling
a. What is Bayesian age modelling?
b. When and why should it be used?
c. Constructing Bayesian age models in OxCal

Mode of training and location

The training will combine lectures, demonstrations, discussions, and practicals on the computer.
The course is relatively intense and compact, it will be available only in presential in the facilities of the University of Algarve, Faro, Portugal.


20-23 February 2023
Participants ideally should be present for the whole four days.

Total hours

22 hours

Number of participants 

Maximum 15 participants.
The course is designed for students (Master, PhD), researchers and professionals in archaeological and geochronological sciences.

Registration fee 

Registration is free. No costs for practical labs.
Travel, accommodation, and subsistence costs are at the charge of the participants.


Deadline for application: 8 January 2023, 23:59 (WET).
Notification of acceptance and final program: January
Start of the course: 20 of February

Additional info 

Interested participant should fill in the form below before the deadline.
If more than 15 applications are received, selected participants will be invited in January and others will be on waiting list.
Participants are invited to bring their laptop to run practical exercises in their own environment