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Carbon 14 dating archaeology

Plants and animals naturally incorporate both the abundant C-12 isotope and the much rarer radiocarbon isotope into their tissues in about the same proportions as the two occur in the atmosphere during their lifetimes.

When a creature dies, it ceases to consume more radiocarbon while the C-14 already in its body continues to decay back into nitrogen.

This man-made fluctuation wasn't a natural occurrence, but it demonstrates the fact that fluctuation is possible and that a period of natural upheaval upon the earth could greatly affect the ratio.

Volcanoes spew out CO which could just as effectively decrease the ratio.

Compared to conventional radiocarbon techniques such as Libby's solid carbon counting, the gas counting method popular in the mid-1950s, or liquid scintillation (LS) counting, AMS permitted the dating of much smaller sized samples with even greater precision.

Regardless of the particular 14C technique used, the value of this tool for archaeology has clearly been appreciated.

Radiocarbon dating was the first chronometric technique widely available to archaeologists and was especially useful because it allowed researchers to directly date the panoply of organic remains often found in archaeological sites including artifacts made from bone, shell, wood, and other carbon based materials.

And yet we know that "radiocarbon is forming 28-37% faster than it is decaying," which means it hasn't yet reached equilibrium, which means the ratio is higher today than it was in the unobservable past.

We also know that the ratio decreased during the industrial revolution due to the dramatic increase of CO produced by factories.

C-14 is produced in the upper atmosphere when nitrogen-14 (N-14) is altered through the effects of cosmic radiation bombardment (a proton is displaced by a neutron effectively changing the nitrogen atom into a carbon isotope).

The new isotope is called "radiocarbon" because it is radioactive, though it is not dangerous.

900 comments

  1. Archaeology has the ability to open unimaginable vistas of thousands, even millions, of years of past human experience.” – Colin Renfrew. When it comes to.

  2. Since its development by Willard Libby in the 1940s, radiocarbon 14C dating has become one of the most essential tools in archaeology. Radiocarbon dating.

  3. Radiocarbon dating lab scientists and archaeologists should coordinate on sampling, storage and other concerns to obtain a meaningful result.

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