Carbon dating or uranium 238
After an organism dies, the radiocarbon decreases through a regular pattern of decay. The time taken for half of the atoms of a radioactive isotope to decay in Carbon-14’s case is about 5730 years.Half-lives vary according to the isotope, for example, Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4500 million years where as Nitrogen-17 has a half-life of 4.173 seconds!Shellfish remains are common in coastal and estuarine archaeological sites, but dating these samples require a correction for the “reservoir effect” a process whereby "old carbon" is recycled and incorporated into marine life especially shellfish inflating their actual age in some cases several centuries.In recognition of this problem archaeologists have developed regional reservoir correction rates based on ocean bottom topography, water temperature, coastline shape and paired samples of terrestrial and marine objects found together in an archaeological feature such as a hearth.Limitations and calibration: When Libby was first determining radiocarbon dates, he found that before 1000 BC his dates were earlier than calendar dates.He had assumed that amounts of Carbon-14 in the atmosphere had remained constant through time.As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.
One good example would be the elevated levels of Carbon-14 in our atmosphere since WWII as a result of atomic bombs testing.
In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon dates.
His radiocarbon dating technique is the most important development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main tool for dating the past 50,000 years.
Long tree-ring sequences have been developed throughout the world and can be used to check and calibrate radiocarbon dates.
An extensive tree-ring sequence from the present to 6700 BC was developed in Arizona using California bristlecone pine (), some of which are 4900 years old, making them the oldest living things on earth.
How It Works: Carbon has 3 isotopic forms: Carbon-12, Carbon-13, and Carbon-14.