Carbon dating on the
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.No other scientific method has managed to revolutionize man’s understanding not only of his present but also of events that already happened thousands of years ago.
This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.There are three principal techniques used to measure carbon 14 content of any given sample— gas proportional counting, liquid scintillation counting, and accelerator mass spectrometry.Gas proportional counting is a conventional radiometric dating technique that counts the beta particles emitted by a given sample. In this method, the carbon sample is first converted to carbon dioxide gas before measurement in gas proportional counters takes place.Radiocarbon dating is essentially a method designed to measure residual radioactivity.By knowing how much carbon 14 is left in a sample, the age of the organism when it died can be known. Some inorganic matter, like a shell’s aragonite component, can also be dated as long as the mineral’s formation involved assimilation of carbon 14 in equilibrium with the atmosphere.All animals in the food chain, including carnivores, get their carbon indirectly from plant material, even if it is by eating animals which themselves eat plants.
The net effect of this is that all living organisms have the same radiocarbon to stable carbon ratio as the atmosphere.
Radiocarbon dating is one of the most widely used scientific dating methods in archaeology and environmental science.
It can be applied to most organic materials and spans dates from a few hundred years ago right back to about 50,000 years ago - about when modern humans were first entering Europe.
Once an organism dies the carbon is no longer replaced.
Because the radiocarbon is radioactive, it will slowly decay away.
Further complications arise when the carbon in a sample has not taken a straightforward route from the atmosphere to the organism and thence to the measured sample.