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.
What is Carbon (14C) Dating? Carbon Dating Definition
On the Atlantic coast of the US, archaeologists found oyster shells left by Native Americans more than 4, years ago. In Morocco, paleontologists excavated the fossils of a dinosaur that roamed Earth million years ago. How did the researchers determine these ages? When examining remnants from the past, experts use radiometric dating, a versatile technique that involves counting radioactive atoms of certain elements that are still present in a sample. The particular elements studied, as well as the details of the process, depend on the approximate age of the object that scientists hope to date. For human or animal remains and artifacts from the past 50, years or so, researchers look at levels of carbon 14 in the sample. Chemically, carbon 14 behaves exactly like its stable siblings carbon 12 and carbon 13 , allowing plants to absorb it during photosynthesis and then pass it up the food chain.
World's Oldest Cave Art Found—Made by Neanderthals?
By: Jessika Toothman. Prior to the development of radiocarbon dating , it was difficult to tell when an archaeological artifact came from. Unless something was obviously attributable to a specific year -- say a dated coin or known piece of artwork -- then whoever discovered it had to do quite a bit of guesstimating to get a proper age for the item.
Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50, years. Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.