Though archaeologists can come up with good guesses about the date of artifacts through different processes, most methods of dating are trumped by a relatively new technique called radiocarbon dating. Developed in , it is considered the most useful way of determining the dates of artifacts for archaeologists. Since 14 C is radioactive, it decays at a relatively quick exponential rate Figure 1 , while non-radioactive carbon 12 C does not. While Libby noted that radiocarbon dating remains effective because the amount of 14 C produced in the atmosphere does not vary with time, this may not always be the case. Fossil fuel emissions have undoubtedly raised the amount of 12 C in the atmosphere, with there being an upward trend in in the metric tons of Carbon in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution Figure 2. When fossil fuels are released into the atmosphere, they release 12 C, and not 14 C.
Is Carbon Dating Accurate?
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How Accurate is Carbon Dating?
Radiocarbon dating also referred to as carbon dating or carbon dating is a method for determining the age of an object containing organic material by using the properties of radiocarbon , a radioactive isotope of carbon. The method was developed in the late s at the University of Chicago by Willard Libby , who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work in It is based on the fact that radiocarbon 14 C is constantly being created in the atmosphere by the interaction of cosmic rays with atmospheric nitrogen. The resulting 14 C combines with atmospheric oxygen to form radioactive carbon dioxide , which is incorporated into plants by photosynthesis ; animals then acquire 14 C by eating the plants.
Radiocarbon dating is one of the best known archaeological dating techniques available to scientists, and the many people in the general public have at least heard of it. But there are many misconceptions about how radiocarbon works and how reliable a technique it is. Radiocarbon dating was invented in the s by the American chemist Willard F.