How is carbon dating used

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Carbon dating is used by archeologists to date trees, plants, and animal remains; as well as human artifacts made from wood and leather; because these items are generally younger than 50,000 years.

Carbon is found in different forms in the environment – mainly in the stable form of carbon-12 and the unstable form of carbon-14.

Today, the radiocarbon-14 dating method is used extensively in environmental sciences and in human sciences such as archaeology and anthropology.

The next big step in the radiocarbon dating method would be Accelerated Mass Spectrometry which was developed in the late 1980s and published its first results in 1994 (3).

Geologists measure the abundance of these radioisotopes instead to date rocks.

date of organic material - but an approximate age, usually within a range of a few years either way.

The other method is “Relative Dating” which gives an order of events without giving an exact age (1): typically artefact typology or the study of the sequence of the evolution of fossils.

There are three carbon isotopes that occur as part of the Earth's natural processes; these are carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14.

In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).

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