In the conventional application of archaeomagnetic research, the data from an archaeomagnetic sample of unknown age are compared to a regional record of secular variation in order to determine the best-fit date range for the feature's last firing event.
This is what Sternberg (195) has referred to as a "regional pattern-matching method" of dating because the sample direction is compared to the pattern of regional secular variation, via the reference curve, in order to determine the best date range.
Simply put, the Earth has a magnetic field which varies over space and time.
A record of the past geomagnetic field can be found in the remains of hearths, furnaces, or other anthropogenically fired features that we as archaeologist excavate on a regular basis.
Unlike radiocarbon or, in some cases, even tree rings, the data recovered from an archaeomagnetic sample directly refer to a specific cultural event of archaeological interest (Dean 1978).
Thus, an archaeomagnetic sample, in theory, should more accurately date the target event than other dating sources (Wolfman 1990a:346).
The obtained reference curve represents the past 2300 yr.
As an archaeomagnetist, and we are pretty few and far between, it is always amazing the variety of sites that you get to see and work on.
The construction of a secular variation (SV) reference curve for a region for which little or no archaeomagnetic directions are available is presented here.
A SV curve is illustrated for Austria, centred on Radstadt (47.38°N, 13.45°E) and based on data from sites in other countries less than 500 km away.
In the statistical method of sample dating (Sternberg 1982; Sternberg and Mc Guire 1990), the data from an archaeomagnetic sample are compared to to the mean VGPs of a statistically-created curve.
F-tests are calculated at the 5% significance level to identify the mean VGPs that differ from the location of the undated sample.