The scholar most associated with the rules of stratigraphy (or law of superposition) is probably the geologist Charles Lyell.The basis for stratigraphy seems quite intuitive today, but its applications were no less than earth-shattering to archaeological theory."This technique stands to revolutionize radiocarbon dating," said Marvin Rowe, Ph. "It expands the possibility for analyzing extensive museum collections that have previously been off limits because of their rarity or intrinsic value and the destructive nature of the current method of radiocarbon dating.In theory, it could even be used to date the Shroud of Turin." Rowe explained that the new method is a form of radiocarbon dating, the archaeologist's standard tool to estimate the age of an object by measuring its content of naturally-occurring radioactive carbon.
For more information on stratigraphy and how it is used in archaeology, see the Stratigraphy glossary entry.So, we have a “clock” which starts ticking the moment something dies.Obviously, this works only for things which were once living.Stratigraphy is the oldest of the relative dating methods that archaeologists use to date things.Stratigraphy is based on the law of superposition--like a layer cake, the lowest layers must have been formed first.