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Tephrochronology: principles, functioning, application

Tephrochronology is a unique method for linking and dating geological, palaeoecological, palaeoclimatic or archaeological sequences or events. The method relies firstly and fundamentally on stratigraphy and the law of superposition, which apply in any study that connects or correlates deposits from one place to another. Secondly, it relies on characterising and hence identifying or „fingerprinting‟ tephra layers using either physical properties evident in the field or those obtained from laboratory analysis, including mineralogical examination by optical microscopy or geochemical analysis of glass shards or crystals (e.g., Fe-Ti oxides, ferromagnesian minerals) using the electron microprobe and other tools. Thirdly, the method is enhanced when a numerical age is obtained for a tephra layer by (1) radiometric methods such as radiocarbon, fission-track, U-series, or Ar/Ar dating, (2) incremental dating methods including dendrochronology or varved sediments or layering in ice cores, or (3) age-equivalent methods such as palaeomagnetism or correlation with marine oxygen isotope stages or palynostratigraphy. Once known, that age can be transferred from one site to the next using stratigraphic methods and by matching compositional characteristics, i.e., comparing ‘fingerprints’ from each layer. Used this way, tephrochronology is an age-equivalent dating method.
Conference Contribution
Type of thesis
Lowe, D.J. (2011). Tephrochronology: principles, functioning, application. In C. Prior, K. Rogers, M. Vandergones (Eds.), 8th Quaternary Techniques Short Course – Techniques of Palaeoclimatic and Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction. National Isotope Centre, GNS Science, Lower Hutt, 19-20 May 2011 (pp. 1-26).