4 HOW TO DATE FUR­NI­TURE, FASH­ION AND FOS­SILS

Tricks of the trade to point you to the right decade, cen­tury or even mil­len­nium

The Simple Things - - MISCELLANY -

FUR­NI­TURE

De­tails: lack of sym­me­try and im­per­fect fin­ishes of rungs, nails and screws im­ply hand­made and likely older. Hand­made dove­tails on draw­ers (not pre­cisely cut and spaced) sug­gest pre-1860.

Fin­ish: usu­ally shel­lac pre-1860s (lac­quer and var­nish came later). Shel­lac dis­solves when rubbed with de­na­tured al­co­hol.

Back­ing: solid wood, not ply­wood, says pre-1880s. Chip­board, 1960s on.

FASH­ION

Fin­ish: ‘Over-locked’ ma­chine edg­ing in­di­cates the late 1960s/early 1970s on. Zips: not com­mon un­til the late 1930s, and made of me­tal un­til the early 1960s. La­bels: size la­bels are rare pre-late 1950s; care la­bels only used since early 1960s. Fab­ric: ar­ti­fi­cial fab­rics for things other than un­der­wear says post-World War II.

FOS­SILS

Car­bon-14 is found in ev­ery­thing that once lived. Af­ter death, the amount of car­bon-14 de­creases reg­u­larly – half is lost ev­ery 5,700 years. So, with the right equip­ment and maths, ra­dio­car­bon dat­ing can in­di­cate the age of a fos­sil fairly pre­cisely. How­ever, it’s only re­li­able to about 60,000 years and it’s not future-proof – post-1940s, in­creased nu­clear ac­tiv­ity af­fects re­sults.

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