Basically carbon is one isotope of Carbon that is naturally present in living things, but it unstable. So it emits a ball of two protons and two-neutrons to become carbon, which is a type of radioactive decay. But measuring how much carbon is in a formerly living thing compared to carbon and doing some math with what is called a half-life you can date things to within a certain range. Unfortunately it is not precise enough to date some really old things with much certainty, and it can only be used to date stuff that was once alive. Radiocarbon dating is used to appreciate how old are objects from organic origin; the time range is approx.
How Carbon-14 Dating Works
Radiocarbon dating - Wikipedia
Radiocarbon dating also referred to as carbon dating or carbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon , a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was developed in the late s at the University of Chicago by Willard Libby , who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in It is based on the fact that radiocarbon 14 C is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen. The resulting 14 C combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide , which is incorporated into plants by photosynthesis ; animals then acquire 14 C by eating the plants.
What Can Radiocarbon Dating Be Used On - Radiocarbon Dating
Since its development by Willard Libby in the s, radiocarbon 14C dating has become one of the most essential tools in archaeology. 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. In contrast to relative dating techniques whereby artifacts were simply designated as "older" or "younger" than other cultural remains based on the presence of fossils or stratigraphic position, 14C dating provided an easy and increasingly accessible way for archaeologists to construct chronologies of human behavior and examine temporal changes through time at a finer scale than what had previously been possible.
Despite the name, it does not give an absolute date of organic material - but an approximate age, usually within a range of a few years either way. There are three carbon isotopes that occur as part of the Earth's natural processes; these are carbon, carbon and carbon The unstable nature of carbon 14 with a precise half-life that makes it easy to measure means it is ideal as an absolute dating method.