What does radiocarbon dating measure
The historical perspective on the development of radiocarbon dating is well outlined in Taylor's book "Radiocarbon Dating: An archaeological perspective". Libby and his what doe radiocarbon dating measure intially tested the radiocarbon method on samples from prehistoric Egypt. The tests suggested that the half-life they had measured was accurate, and, quite reasonably, suggested further that atmospheric radiocarbon concentration had remained constant throughout the recent past.
InArnold and Libby published their paper "Age determinations by radiocarbon content: Checks with samples of known age" in the journal Science. In this paper they presented the first results of the C14 method, including the "Curve of Knowns" in which radiocarbon dates were compared with the known age historical dates see figure 1.
In the s, further measurements on Mediterranean samples, in particular those from Egypt whose age was known through what doe radiocarbon dating measure means, pointed to radiocarbon dates which were younger than expected. The debate regarding this is outlined extensively in Renfrew Briefly, opinion was divided between those who thought the radiocarbon dates were correct ie, that radiocarbon years equated more or less to solar or calendar years and those who felt they were flawed and the historical data was more accurate.
In addition to long term fluctuations, smaller 'wiggles' were identified by the Dutch scholar Hessel de Vries This suggested there were temporal fluctuations in C14 concentration which would neccessitate the calibration of radiocarbon dates to other historically aged material. This enables radiocarbon dates to be calibrated to solar or calendar dates.
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Radiometric dating / Carbon dating
The concept of radiocarbon dating focused on measuring the carbon content of discreet organic objects, but in order to prove the idea Libby would have to understand the earth’s carbon system. Radiocarbon dating would be most successful if two important factors were true: that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere had been constant for thousands of years, and that carbon moved readily through the atmosphere, biosphere, oceans and other reservoirs-in a process known as the carbon cycle.
That half-life is critical to radiocarbon dating. Since carbon doesn't decay, it's a good benchmark against which to measure carbon's. Carbon dating is something that you hear about in the news all the time. Find out how carbon dating works and why carbon dating is so accurate!