Start Radio carbon dating made easy

Radio carbon dating made easy

The aim here is to provide clear, understandable information relating to radiocarbon dating for the benefit of K12 students, as well as lay people who are not requiring detailed information about the method of radiocarbon dating itself.

The amount of carbon-14 in the air has stayed the same for thousands of years.

There is a small amount of radioactive carbon-14 in all living organisms because it enters the food chain.

In Nyerup's time, archaeologists could date the past only by using recorded histories, which in Europe were based mainly on the Egyptian calendar.

They used pottery and other materials in sites to date 'relatively'.

Animals eat plants, and some eat other animals in the food chain.

Carbon follows this pathway through the food chain on Earth so that all living things are using carbon, building their bodies until they die.

They thought that sites which had the same kinds of pots and tools would be the same age.

The relative dating method worked very well, but only in sites which were had a connection to the relative scale. When radiocarbon dating was developed, it revolutionised archaeology, because it enabled them to more confidently date the past, and to build a more accurate picture of the human past.

Today, there are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon dates for the scientific community.

The C14 method has been and continues to be applied and used in many, many different fields including hydrology, atmospheric science, oceanography, geology, palaeoclimatology, archaeology and biomedicine.

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.