Terminus post quem

Terminus post quem ("limit after which", often abbreviated to TPQ)[1] and terminus ante quem ("limit before which", abbreviated to TAQ) specify the known limits of dating for events. A terminus post quem is the earliest time the event may have happened, and a terminus ante quem is the latest. An event may well have both a terminus post quem and a terminus ante quem, in which case the limits of the possible range of dates are known at both ends, but many events have just one or the other. Similarly, terminus ad quem ("limit to which") is the latest possible date of a non-punctual event (period, era, etc.), while terminus a quo ("limit from which") is the earliest. The concepts are similar to those of upper and lower bounds in mathematics.

Coins of Azes I inside the Bimaran casket
The coins of Azes II found inside the Bimaran casket provide a terminus post quem: for the coins to have been placed inside, the casket was necessarily consecrated after the beginning of the reign of Azes II.


For example, consider an archaeological find of a burial that contains coins dating to 1588, 1595, and others less securely dated to 1590–1625. The terminus post quem for the burial would be the latest date established with certainty: in this case, 1595. A secure dating of an older coin to an earlier date would not shift the terminus post quem.

An archaeological example of a terminus ante quem would be deposits formed before a historically dateable event, such as building foundations that were partly demolished to make way for the construction of a city wall. If it is known that the wall was finished in 650, then the foundations must have been demolished in 650 or earlier; all that can be said from the evidence is that it happened before the known event.

Other examples of things that may establish a terminus are known dates of death or travel by persons involved, a particular form of heraldry that can be dated (see pastiglia for example), references to reigning monarchs or office-holders, or a placing relative to any other events whose date is securely known. In a modern context, dated images, such as those available in Google Earth, may establish termini.

Related terms

A terminus ante quem non differs from a terminus post quem by not implying the event necessarily took place. 'Event E happened after time T' implies E occurred, whereas 'event E did not happen before time T' leaves open the possibility that E never occurred at all.

See also


  1. ^ Grant, Jim; Gorin, Sam; Fleming, Neil (2005), The archaeology coursebook: an introduction to study skills, topics and methods (2 ed.), Taylor & Francis, p. 90, ISBN 978-0-415-36077-7
Ahiram sarcophagus

The Ahiram sarcophagus (also spelled Ahirom) was the sarcophagus of a Phoenician king of Byblos (c. 1000 BC), discovered in 1923 by the French excavator Pierre Montet in tomb V of the royal necropolis of Byblos. Ahirom is not attested in any other Ancient Oriental source, although some scholars have suggested a possible connection to the contemporary King Hiram mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (see Hiram I).

The sarcophagus is famed for its bas relief carvings, and its Phoenician language inscription. One of five known Byblian royal inscriptions, the inscription is considered to be the earliest known example of the fully developed Phoenician alphabet. For some scholars it represents the terminus post quem of the transmission of the alphabet to Europe.

Bernart Alanhan de Narbona

Bernart Alanhan de Narbona was a minor troubadour probably from Narbonne. He left behind only one song, No posc mudar qu'eu no diga, a sirventes about the loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens, though it was not classified as a Crusade song in the seminal work on the genre by Kurt Lewent (1905).

Three different datings have been offered based on the internal reference to Jerusalem. In 2003 Linda Paterson suggested a terminus post quem of 1187, since the first loss of Jerusalem to the Saracens—during the time of the troubadours—was to Saladin. In 1885 Camille Chabaneau, who was followed by Carl Appel in 1892, first suggested that the poem was written between 1245 and 1250 in response to the loss of the city to the Turks in 1244. An allusion to the city's occupation by the Egyptians, who signed Jerusalem over to the Emperor Frederick II in 1239, is cited in support of this.

Chronica Naierensis

The Chronica Naierensis or Crónica najerense (originally edited under the title Crónica leonesa) was a late twelfth-century chronicle of universal history composed at the Benedictine monastery of Santa María la Real in Nájera. In Latin it narrates events from Creation to its own time, with a focus on the Bible, classical history, the Visigothic in Spain, and the kingdoms of Castile and León. It was an important model for later Spanish Latin historiographers, notably the De rebus Hispaniae of Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, the Chronicon mundi of Lucas de Tuy, and the Estoria de España of the patronage of Alfonso X of Castile.

Besides its classical and Biblical authorities, the Chronica Naierensis relied heavily on material culled from the cantares de gesta. The Chronica is not an original work in any rigorous sense, but rather a compilation. Its Visigothic history is based squarely on Isidore of Seville and its more recent Spanish history incorporates the Corpus Pelagianum, a work supervised by Pelagius, Bishop of Oviedo, mid-century. The date of the Chronica's completion was long dated to 1160, but the 1995 critical edition published by Juan Estévez Sola revised the terminus post quem to 1173, for it was not until that year that Pedro Coméstor finished his Historia Scholastica, which the Chronica uses as a source. The terminus ante quem of the Chronica can be placed in 1194, the earliest date for the composition of the Linage del Cid, which used it as a source. These dates make it contemporary with the Historia Roderici, though the influence of the latter in the Chronica is evident.


Circa (from Latin, meaning 'around, about, roughly, approximately') – frequently abbreviated c., ca. or ca and less frequently circ. or cca. – signifies "approximately" in several European languages and as a loanword in English, usually in reference to a date. Circa is widely used in historical writing when the dates of events are not accurately known.

When used in date ranges, circa is applied before each approximate date, while dates without circa immediately preceding them are generally assumed to be known with certainty.


1732–1799: Both years are known precisely.

c. 1732 – 1799: The beginning year is approximate; the end year is known precisely.

1732 – c. 1799: The beginning year is known precisely ; the end year is approximate.

c. 1732 – c. 1799: Both years are approximate.

Deir Alla

Deir Alla (Arabic: دير علا) is the site of an ancient Near Eastern town in Balqa Governorate, Jordan, thought to be the biblical Pethor.

The town was a sanctuary and metal-working centre, ringed by smelting furnaces built against the exterior of the city walls, whose successive rebuildings, dated by ceramics from the Late Bronze Age, sixteenth century BCE, to the fifth century BCE, accumulated as a tell based on a low natural hill. The hopeful identification of the site as the Biblical Sukkot is not confirmed by any inscription at the site. However, in Jerusalem Talmud Zeraim Shevi'it 9:2, Sukkot is referred as 'Darʿala or Tar'ellah' hence maybe deformed later into Deir Alla.Deir Alla was the first Bronze Age city excavated in Jordan. The initial expectations were of establishing a relative chronology of Palestine pottery in the transition between the Bronze Age to the Iron Age, established through meticulous stratigraphy. It was intended to span a gap between established chronologies at Jericho and Samaria.The oldest sanctuary at Deir Alla dates to the Late Bronze Age; it was peacefully rebuilt at intervals, the floor being raised as the tell accumulated height, and the squared altar stone renewed, each new one placed atop the previous one. The final sanctuary was obliterated in a fierce fire; the blackened remains of an Egyptian jar bearing the cartouche of Queen Twosret gives a terminus post quem of ca 1200 BCE, a date consonant with other twelfth-century urban destruction in the Ancient Near East. Unlike some other destroyed sites, Deir Alla's habitation continued after the disaster, without a break, into the Iron Age; the discontinuity was a cultural one, with highly developed pottery of a separate ceramic tradition post-dating the destruction.

On 20 August 2010, it recorded a scorching temperature of 51.1C, the new official highest temperature in the history of Jordan.


Dragmus or Dragmos (Greek: Δράγμος) was a town of ancient Crete. An inscription of Itanus is preserved showing the borders between Itanus and Dragmus, from which it is deduced that the territory of Dragmus had been absorbed by the city of Praesus. The terminus post quem of the absorption is situated around the years 270-260 BCE.Its site is tentatively located near modern Kastri, Koutsoulopetres.

Era (geology)

A geologic era is a subdivision of geologic time that divides an eon into smaller units of time. The Phanerozoic Eon is divided into three such time frames: the Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic (meaning "old life", "middle life" and "recent life") that represent the major stages in the macroscopic fossil record. These eras are separated by catastrophic extinction boundaries, the P-T boundary between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic and the K-Pg boundary between the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic. There is evidence that catastrophic meteorite impacts played a role in demarcating the differences between the eras.

The Hadean, Archean and Proterozoic eons were as a whole formerly called the Precambrian. This covered the four billion years of Earth history prior to the appearance of hard-shelled animals. More recently, however, the Archean and Proterozoic eons have been subdivided into eras of their own.

Geologic eras are further subdivided into geologic periods, although the Archean eras have yet to be subdivided in this way.


Floruit (UK: , US: ), abbreviated fl. (or occasionally flor.), Latin for "he/she flourished", denotes a date or period during which a person was known to have been alive or active. In English, the word may also be used as a noun indicating the time when someone flourished.

Geologic Calendar

The Geologic Calendar is a scale in which the geological lifetime of the earth is mapped onto a calendrical year; that is to say, the day one of the earth took place on a geologic January 1 at precisely midnight, and today's date and time is December 31 at midnight. On this calendar, the inferred appearance of the first living single-celled organisms, prokaryotes, occurred on a geologic February 25 around 12:30pm to 1:07pm, dinosaurs first appeared on December 13, the first flower plants on December 22 and the first primates on December 28 at about 9:43pm. The first Anatomically modern humans did not arrive until around 11:48 p.m. on New Year's Eve, and all of human history since the end of the last ice-age occurred in the last 82.2 seconds before midnight of the new year.

Geological period

A geological period is one of the several subdivisions of geologic time enabling cross-referencing of rocks and geologic events from place to place.

These periods form elements of a hierarchy of divisions into which geologists have split the Earth's history.

Eons and eras are larger subdivisions than periods while periods themselves may be divided into epochs and ages.

The rocks formed during a period belong to a stratigraphic unit called a system.


Hnæf son of Hoc is a prince mentioned in the Old English poems Beowulf and the Finnsburg Fragment.

According to the listing of tribes in the poem Widsith (10th century), Hnæf ruled the Hocings. Hoc is called Hoc Healfdene, suggesting a partly Danish ancestry.

According to the narrative, Hnæf was the brother of Hildeburh and brother-in-law of Finn, who ruled the Frisians and was killed during a Danish expedition to Frisian territory.

Hoc may be identical to the chieftain Haki mentioned in the Ynglinga Saga by Snorri Sturlason. This Haki conquered the kingdom of Uppsala and reigned there for ten years before he was cast out by king Jorund.

The father-son pair Hoc and Hnæf has been associated with the historical Alamannic noblemen, possibly of Nibelung extraction, Huoching (d. 744) and Hnabi (d. 788), the founder of the Ahalolfings. This suggestion was first made in 1849 by John Mitchell Kemble in History of the Saxons in England (p. 419). If the Old English legendary characters have been influenced by these historical characters, this would set the late 8th century as a terminus post quem for the date of Beowulf.

Mycenaean Greek

Mycenaean Greek is the most ancient attested form of the Greek language, on the Greek mainland, Crete and Cyprus in Mycenaean Greece (16th to 12th centuries BC), before the hypothesised Dorian invasion, often cited as the terminus post quem for the coming of the Greek language to Greece. The language is preserved in inscriptions in Linear B, a script first attested on Crete before the 14th century. Most inscriptions are on clay tablets found in Knossos, in central Crete, as well as in Pylos, in the southwest of the Peloponnese. Other tablets have been found at Mycenae itself, Tiryns and Thebes and at Chania, in Western Crete. The language is named after Mycenae, one of the major centres of Mycenaean Greece.

The tablets long remained undeciphered, and many languages were suggested for them, until Michael Ventris deciphered the script in 1952.

The texts on the tablets are mostly lists and inventories. No prose narrative survives, much less myth or poetry. Still, much may be glimpsed from these records about the people who produced them and about Mycenaean Greece, the period before the so-called Greek Dark Ages.

Nitrogen dating

Nitrogen dating is a form of relative dating which relies on the reliable breakdown and release of amino acids from bone samples to estimate the age of the object. For human bones, the assumption of about 5% nitrogen in the bone, mostly in the form of collogen, allows fairly consistent dating techniques.Compared to other dating techniques, Nitrogen dating can be unreliable because leaching from bone is dependent on temperature, soil pH, ground water, and the presence of microorganism that digest nitrogen rich elements, like collagen. Some studies compare nitrogen dating results with dating results from methods like fluorine absorption dating to create more accurate estimates. Though some situations, like thin porous bones might more rapidly change the dating created by multiple methods.

Notable Last Facts

Notable Last Facts is a book published by the American librarian/writer William B. Brahms in 2004 and was the first relatively comprehensive collection of important lasts.

Although that work mainly details American culture (TV, Radio, Sports are almost completely American examples), and to a lesser extent with European culture (in Art, Music and Transportation for example), some sections (Nations, Wars, Slavery, Voting, and Era & Empires for example) do have a broad international treatment. The smaller trivia books on "lasts" by Christopher Slee (cited below) have a treatment that is almost exclusively limited to the United Kingdom. Examples of "Notable Last Facts" include the last surviving participant or witness to a historic event, the last work produced by a major artist, author, performer or musician, or perhaps the last remaining example of a once-prevalent style or object, such as a type of architecture, or a make or model of an automobile, motorcycle, or airplane. Notable lasts are often used a finite demarcations of social, artistic and historical eras or periods. They also serve, often unintentionally, to mark advances, failures and change. In other fields of study, a notable last can be used to assist in dating objects, buildings and artifacts by helping to establish a terminus ante quem or a terminus post quem relative to the date of the notable last event. A differentiation is made between a simple "last" (which includes the last time something happened that will likely happen again—such as the last time there was an unassisted triple play in baseball or the last time it snowed in September in New York City) and a "notable last" (which are limited to concrete endings; thus not possible or highly improbable to ever happen again—such as a deceased composer's last work or the last act in a specific war that has ended).

Old wood

The old wood effect or old wood problem is a pitfall encountered in the archaeological technique of radiocarbon dating. A sample will provide misleading or confusing results if materials of different ages are deposited in the same context.

Stratification is not always clear-cut in practice. In the case of dating megalithic tombs, indirect evidence for the age of the tomb must always be obtained, because stone (or the time of moving a stone) can not be dated. When a number of objects are recovered from one deposit, the terminus post quem is based on the dating from the 'youngest' find. Even though other items in the same stratum indicate earlier dates, they may have been deposited at the same time. The deposit must be as young, or younger than the youngest object it contains. Thus excavators look to post holes, pits, or find spots under the orthostats for clues to construction dates. The possibility that something (organic) was already in situ must always be considered, especially if the results appear suspiciously early.

The old wood problem can appear in marine archaeology. Researchers need to check if stumps from a Mesolithic or Palaeolithic submerged forest are to be found in the area. (If they do, the possibility of one sticking up through, e. g., a shipwreck and giving misleading dates must be considered.)

Organic samples which are not derived from the same part of an organism, may show dating variations which blur and obscure the interpretation being attempted. If compelling archaeological reasons for supposing that the ages come from exactly contemporary samples do not exist, then results must be regarded as suspect. If there exists no prior reason to believe that two samples are truly of the same age, and even if their ages are statistically indistinguishable, they are as likely to be as far apart in true age as the measured difference between them as they are to be of the same age.Charcoal was seen historically as an ideal medium for carbon dating. When long-lived tree species, such as oak and juniper, are used, however, there is a particular danger of encountering the "old wood" problem. For example, the date being measured may be from heartwood, which is already many centuries old by the time the tree was felled. Another difficulty is that of a possible time-lag between felling and final deposition. The timber may have had an extensive history of use and re-use. A method of ameliorating this problem is to date young growth, if available, for example hazel twigs.

Dating of artefacts using Accelerator Mass Spectrometry is the gold standard dating method of today; charcoal-sourced dates are seen as unreliable. In establishing the chronology of a site, a representative spread of dates is required before interpretation can be attempted.

Ranworth Antiphoner

The Ranworth Antiphoner is a 15th-century illuminated antiphoner of the Sarum Rite). It was commissioned for St. Helen's Church, Ranworth, where it is now on display. The volume comprises 285 vellum pages of writing and illustrations, with daily services in medieval Latin and 19 miniatures.

The manuscript was probably the Antiphoner bequeathed to the church in 1478 by William Cobbe. Previously thought to have been produced by the monks of Langley Abbey, examinations of the illuminations suggest that the Antiphoner was manufactured by a Norwich workshop - a basic antiphoner could be produced on spec., and personalised to order. Two things may back this up: 1) the insertion at the end, out of order, of the office of St Helen; 2) Revd. Enraght's suggestion of a terminus post quem non of 1443, owing to the lack of a feast of St Raphael, which was instituted in that year. Recent research has shown that it was not uncommon for churches to invest in liturgical music books by the later fifteenth century.The Antiphoner miraculously survived the Reformation, probably thanks to the local Holdych family. It fell into private hands, including, in the 1850s, those of Henry Huth, and eventually re-surfaced at auction in 1912, where it was bought and returned to St. Helen's.

Snettisham Jeweller's Hoard

The Snettisham Jeweller's Hoard is a collection of Romano-British jewellery and raw materials, found during the construction of a house in the Norfolk village of Snettisham in 1985. The hoard is thought to be the working stock of a jeweller, buried in a single clay pot around 155 AD. The finds include the working tip of a quartz burnishing tool (its handle has not survived), partially or fully completed items of jewellery, and raw materials: mainly silver coins, scrap silver items and silver ingots, but also six pieces of scrap gold, and many engraved gemstones to be set in rings. The presence of scrap gold and silver and absence of base metals indicates that the jeweller dealt mainly with high-status customers.

The 17.5 centimetres (6.9 in) high pot in which the hoard was found is local grey-ware, spherical with relatively narrow opening and base, with a capacity of around 1.6 litres (0.35 imp gal; 0.42 US gal). Some items – such as bracelets – had to be bent to fit through the opening. Within the pot were found:

110 coins: 83 silver denarii and 27 bronze coins; 74 of the silver coins are from the third issue by Domitian (81–96 AD), one with a relatively high silver content. There are also some posthumous coins of the deified Empress Faustina I (dated to 154–155 AD) which give a terminus post quem for the burial of the hoard. The silver coins are probably raw materials; the bronze coins may be the jeweller's own petty cash.

117 engraved carnelian gemstones, of which only 7 stones are mounted in finger rings. Most have simple wheel-cut intaglio engravings with symbols of good luck, including deities such as Fortuna, Bonus Eventus, and Ceres. Stylistic differences indicate that the gemstones were produced by at least three different engravers.

A variety of completed rings, illustrating the range of variation available to a provincial jeweller, some set with gems, but many snake-rings, with a snake's head stamped in low relief at either end of a silver ribbon which would then be bent into shape.

Snake-bracelets, like the snake-rings, produced by stamping with a hammer and dies.

Silver chain necklaces with crescent pendants and wheel clasps, possibly representing the moon and the sun.

Quartz burnishing tool; its handle has not survived, but traces of gold on the tool show that it was used to polish gold.

Two rare scraps of Roman linen, one attached to a coin and another to a ring.The silver finds were covered in a layer of silver chloride corrosion, and some items including copper were covered with green copper carbonate verdigris.

The finds are held by the British Museum.


A stratotype or type section is a geological term that names the physical location or outcrop of a particular reference exposure of a stratigraphic sequence or stratigraphic boundary. If the stratigraphic unit is layered, it is called a stratotype, whereas the standard of reference for unlayered rocks is the type locality.


TPQ may refer to:

Terminus post quem, used to give an approximate date for a text

Amado Nervo International Airport, Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, IATA airport code:

Tridimensional Personality Questionnaire (TPQ)

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Astronomic time
Geologic time
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