Accuracy of radiocarbon dating

In principle, any material of plant or animal origin, including textiles, wood, bones and leather, can be dated by its content of carbon 14, a radioactive form of carbon in the environment that is incorporated by all living things.Because it is radioactive, carbon 14 steadily decays into other substances.Libby, the discoverer of the C14 dating method, was very disappointed with this problem.He understood that archaeological artifacts were readily available. The method was developed by Willard Libby in the late 1940s and soon became a standard tool for archaeologists.

New research shows, however, that some estimates based on carbon may have erred by thousands of years.The older a sample is, the less (the period of time after which half of a given sample will have decayed) is about 5,730 years, the oldest dates that can be reliably measured by this process date to around 50,000 years ago, although special preparation methods occasionally permit accurate analysis of older samples.The idea behind radiocarbon dating is straightforward, but years of work were required to develop the technique to the point where accurate dates could be obtained.In last Tuesday’s lecture, radiocarbon dating was covered briefly.It is an essential technology that is heavily involved in archaeology and should be explored in greater depth.

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They arrived at this conclusion by comparing age estimates obtained using two different methods - analysis of radioactive carbon in a sample and determination of the ratio of uranium to thorium in the sample.

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