Artifact Seriation

Seriation refers to the chronological ordering of artifacts of a particular class—but of different styles. The best artifacts are those whose styles changed at a relatively rapid rate and that are found in contexts that can be independently dated using chronometric dating.

Of all the artifacts made by Pueblo farmers in the ancient Southwest, pottery is the most sensitive for purposes of seriation dating. The styles are distinctive and they continually changed over time. Pottery is also abundant in ancient Pueblo sites, and its occurrence in many tree-ring-dated contexts has allowed archaeologists to determine fairly precisely when different styles were made.

Because the date ranges for various ancient pottery types are so firmly established, archaeologists can use the mere presence of a particular type of pottery to determine the general time period of occupation of a site, even in the absence of other dating evidence.