Magnetic Moments in the Past

Cathy Batt, Paul Linford, Zoe Outram, 2013

Data copyright © Dr Cathy Batt, Paul Linford, Dr Zoe Outram unless otherwise stated

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Dr Cathy Batt
Senior Lecturer in Archaeological Sciences
Archaeological Sciences
University of Bradford
West Yorkshire
Tel: 01274 233533

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Cathy Batt, Paul Linford, Zoe Outram (2013) Magnetic Moments in the Past [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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Photograph: Archaeomagnetic dating in progress

© Stephen Dockrill, 2009

Understanding the age of a given site has always played a central role in archaeology. The principal scientific dating technique used within archaeology is radiocarbon dating, but there are many other techniques that offer advantages to the archaeologists in different situations. Archaeomagnetic dating is one such technique that uses the properties of the Earth's magnetic field to produce a date. A project entitled 'Magnetic Moments in the Past' was launched by the University of Bradford and English Heritage to develop archaeomagnetic dating for application in UK archaeology, funded as part of the AHRC's Knowledge Transfer Fellowship scheme (reference AH/G01020X/1).

The project aimed to demonstrate and communicate the potential of archaeomagnetism for routine use within the UK, and to provide a mechanism for the continued development of the method. This was achieved through the production of a website ( and a database of all archaeomagnetic studies carried out in the UK and Isle of Man, delivering clear and objective information about the application.

The production of the database of archaeomagnetic studies was central to the aims of the project, allowing users to locate similar studies in a specific geographic region, from a particular period of time, or based on the type of feature that was sampled. This will provide information about:

Photograph: Archaeomagnetic dating

© Sarah-Jane Clelland, 2010.

  • how well archaeomagnetic dating has been applied to different situations
  • the precision of the resulting age ranges
  • aspects that should be taken into account in the future, such as excavation and sampling strategies.
  • the suitability of archaeomagnetic dating in a specific situation
  • In addition to promoting archaeomagnetic dating to a wider audience, the database also acts as a central store for the UK archaeomagnetic information. This aspect is vital as only a fraction of the reports have been digitised and so will contribute to the preservation of this valuable resource.

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