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Artifacts deposited in one stratum-a more or less homogeneous material, visually separable from other levels by a distinct change in color, texture, or other characteristic-have a distinct relationship with artifacts recovered from strata (plural of stratum) above or below them.These kinds of time relationships between stratified layers are what archeologists call relative time or relative chronology.

) Archeologists may encounter stratigraphy that has been disrupted.

Distortions can occur during or after material deposition that may cause strata to disappear in one area of the site and reappear farther along at a different distance from the surface. Landfills, dumps, and landslides or other earth movements may distort a site's stratigraphy.

(4/30/01) for instance, earlier, later, more recent, and so forth.

Each object at an archeological site has a different time relationship with every other object at that site.

Theoretically, the purpose of an excavation is to find human disturbances-generally referred to as artifacts and features (Mc Millon 19)-and to investigate and interpret them as remnants of past human activity.

The frequencies of three artifact types at five sites are graphed to illustrate seriation.

While this allows archeologists to establish a relative chronology of the site's occupation and use, it does not tell the age of artifacts found within the stratum.

(See Site formation in What are Archeological Resources?

Others result from natural phenomena like rain and wind (Orser and Fagan 19).

Relative chronologies in archeology derive from the close study of human occupation layers.

While some archeologists working with indigenous people incorporate traditional concepts of time into their research, the linear view of time lies behind most archeological research.

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