What is radiocarbon dating process

There are two techniques for dating in archaeological sites: relative and absolute dating.Relative dating stems from the idea that something is younger or older relative to something else.Carbon 14 has a half-life of 5,780 years, and is continuously created in Earth's atmosphere through the interaction of nitrogen and gamma rays from outer space.Because atmospheric carbon 14 arises at about the same rate that the atom decays, Earth's levels of carbon 14 have remained fairly constant.In the late 1940s, American chemist Willard Libby developed a method for determining when the death of an organism had occurred.He first noted that the cells of all living things contain atoms taken in from the organism's environment, including carbon; all organic compounds contain carbon.Absolute dating represents the absolute age of the sample before the present.Historical documents and calendars can be used to find such absolute dates; however, when working in a site without such documents, it is hard for absolute dates to be determined.

The numbers refer to the atomic weight, so Carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, Carbon-13 has 6 protons and 7 neutrons, and Carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.

Once an organism is dead, however, no new carbon is actively absorbed by its tissues, and its carbon 14 gradually decays.

Libby thus reasoned that by measuring carbon 14 levels in the remains of an organism that died long ago, one could estimate the time of its death.

Looking at the graph, 100% of radiocarbon in a sample will be reduced to 50% after 5730 years.

In 11,460 years, half of the 50% will remain, or 25%, and so on.

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