Carbon 14 dating theory

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Radiocarbon dates are presented in two ways because of this complication.

The uncalibrated date is given with the unit BP (radiocarbon years before 1950).

If 1% of the carbon in a 50,000 year old sample is from a modern contaminant, the sample will be dated to around 40,000 years.

Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials.

In this way large domed tombs (known as tholos or beehive tombs) in Greece were thought to predate similar structures in the Scottish Island of Maeshowe.

This supported the idea that the classical worlds of Greece and Rome were at the centre of all innovations.

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Then, by using the idea that the styles of objects evolve, becoming increasing elaborate over time, they could place them in order relative to each other - a technique called seriation.Luckily, we can measure these fluctuations in samples that are dated by other methods.Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.

Moving away from techniques, the most exciting thing about radiocarbon is what it reveals about our past and the world we live in.

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