Rasmus Nyerup's quote reminds us of the tremendous scientific advances which have taken place in the 20th century.
In Nyerup's time, archaeologists could date the past only by using recorded histories, which in Europe were based mainly on the Egyptian calendar.
Welcome to the K12 section of the Radiocarbon WEBinfo site.
Willard Libby, the principal scientist, had worked in the team making the nuclear bomb during World War 2, so he was an expert in nuclear and atomic chemistry.
We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].
The person who wrote these words lived in the 1800s, many years before archaeologists could accurately date materials from archaeological sites using scientific methods.
They used pottery and other materials in sites to date 'relatively'.
They thought that sites which had the same kinds of pots and tools would be the same age.