Radiocarbon Dating

Every living thing on earth contains the element carbon. When an organism dies, be it a plant or an animal, the carbon acquired during its lifetime begins to decay at a steady, predictable rate, releasing carbon-14, a radioactive isotope with a half-life of 5,730 years. By measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in the organism, scientists can estimate how long ago the organism died. Radiocarbon dates are often reported as a range.

radiocarbon dating

In recent years, scientists have refined methods for radiocarbon dating. Accelerated mass spectrometry, or AMS, is more precise than standard radiocarbon dating and can be performed on smaller samples.

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Radiocarbon Dating is an "ArchaeInteractive" module from North Carolina State University.

What does it mean when a radiocarbon date is said to be calibrated?

A calibrated radiocarbon date is one that has been calibrated to the tree-ring record to adjust for variations in the concentration of atmospheric C-14 over time. Calibrated C-14 dates correspond to true calendar years; standard C-14 dates do not. In the scientific literature, calibrated dates are usually reported as cal A.D. or cal B.C. dates.

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