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What is radiocarbon dating mean

The bones were too old for radiocarbon datingwhich only works well on organic remains from the past 40, years or so. The bone, just the fragment of a femur, comes from a dog that lived about 10, years ago, based on radiocarbon dating.


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Radiocarbon dating contains other potential sources of error besides the assumption that the carbon is neither older nor younger than the enclosing sediment S. Trumbore in Noller et al.

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Carbon datingalso called radiocarbon datingmethod of age determination that depends upon the decay to nitrogen of radiocarbon carbon Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle : it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain.

Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food. Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases. Because carbon decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon. The carbon method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. Libby about It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from to 50, years old.

The method is widely used by Pleistocene geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and investigators in related fields. Carbon dating.

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External Websites. Articles from Britannica Encyclopedias for elementary and high school students. Also Known As: radiocarbon dating Show more Related Topics: Radiometric dating Show more.

Radiocarbon dating

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Can you filter your way through our chemistry quiz? Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The occurrence of natural radioactive carbon in the atmosphere provides a unique opportunity to date organic materials as old as roughly 60, years.

Unlike most isotopic dating methods, the conventional carbon dating technique is not based on counting daughter…. Likewise, anthropologists and archaeologists apply knowledge of human culture and society to biological findings in order to more fully understand humankind.

What is radiocarbon dating?

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