Carbon dating basics

Eventually, a particle is emitted from the carbon 14 atom, and carbon 14 disappears.Most of the carbon on Earth exists in a slightly different atomic form, although it is chemically speaking, identical to all carbon.Because carbon is very common on Earth, there are alot of different types of material which can be dated by scientists.Below is a list of the different kinds of materials which can be dated: Libby tested the new radiocarbon method on carbon samples from prehistoric Egypt whose age was known.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.

Therefore, radiocarbon dating is not able to date anything older than 60 or 70 000 years old.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.Carbon follows this pathway through the food chain on Earth so that all living things are using carbon, building their bodies until they die.A tiny part of the carbon on the Earth is called Carbon-14 (C14), or radiocarbon.

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