Problem with carbon dating

Archaeologists had used Relative Dating methods to calculate their reigns.

Though their initial calculations were slightly incorrect thanks to the contaminants of extensive nuclear testing of the age, scientists soon discovered the error and developed methods that were more accurate, including a date of calibration to 1950.

Radiocarbon dating may only be used on organic materials.

Typically (6): The above list is not exhaustive; most organic material is suitable so long as it is of sufficient age and has not mineralised - dinosaur bones are out as they no longer have any carbon left.

The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon-14 in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study (2); carbon-14 also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.

Today, the radiocarbon-14 dating method is used extensively in environmental sciences and in human sciences such as archaeology and anthropology.

When the half-life was corrected in 1950, the year was taken as a base date from which to calculate all resulting dates.

Therefore, any expression of “before present” will mean “before 1950”.

As a test, the team took samples of acacia wood from two Egyptian Pharaohs and dated them; the results came back to within what was then a reasonable range: 2800BC /- 250 years whereas the earlier independent dates (largely the dendrochronology records) were 2625 /- 75 years (3), (5).

When an organism dies, it stops absorbing the radioactive isotope and immediately starts decaying (7).

As previously mentioned, the half life of the C isotope is 5,730 years - this means that it takes 5,730 years to reach half the radioactivity that the organism had at the point of death, another 5,730 years to reach 25% radioactivity it had at the point of death and so on.

The sample passes through several accelerators in order to remove as many atoms as possible until the C pass into the detector.

These latter atoms are used as part of the calibration process to measure the relative number of isotopes (9).

Leave a Reply