Bailiff, I. K. (2008) 'New developments in the scientific dating of brick.', in Medieval brick architecture in Flanders and Northern Europe : the Question of the Cistercian. Ghent: Academia Press, pp. 133-144. Novi Monasterii. (7).
Fired clay brick has been widely used in the construction of buildings in many parts of Europe since its introduction by the Romans, and the extremely robust physical properties of fired clay enable bricks to endure within the archaeological record for many centuries, notably as structural elements in standing buildings. Most ancient standing buildings, erected wholly or partially in brick, have undergone alterations since their original construction and consequently usually have a complex history. The current approaches to unravelling building histories have the capability to date the original construction and subsequent alterations to within several years or better where structural analysis combined with searches for documentary evidence and tree-ring dating of timbers is employed. However, for many vernacular buildings, difficulties in dating may arise where documentary evidence has not survived, or may have never existed, where tree-ring dates are not available (such as the replacement of original structural timbers, insufficient number of rings, etc.), and where there is an absence of diagnostic architectural features. In these circumstances the margin of uncertainty in dating may increase by at least several decades, depending on the nature of the available building evidence. This paper discusses the potential of a scientific dating method, luminescence dating, that provides a means of determining the date of manufacture of fired clay brick. Although the luminescence method has become well established in the field of archaeology, it has had limited application to building history. This paper provides a brief introduction to the application of the method and its potential for further development in historic buildings analysis, drawing upon the results of a recent test programme of dating brick from late-medieval and post-medieval English buildings.
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