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Science & Technology in Archaeology

Radiometric Dating

Radiometric dating is a method of dating based on the rate of decay of radioactive isotopes present in all organic materials. The radiometric dating technique used most widely in archaeology is radiocarbon, or C-14, dating.

Any item that derives from a previously living organism—for example, a basket made of plant fibers or a scrap of animal hide—can be subjected to carbon-14 dating. The technique is useful for dating items up to about 50,000 years old.

Learn how radiocarbon dating works.