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Radiocarbon dating—also known as carbon dating—is a technique used by archaeologists and historians to determine the age of organic material. It can theoretically be used to date anything that was alive any time during the last 60, years or so, including charcoal from ancient fires, wood used in construction or tools, cloth, bones, seeds, and leather.

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Carbon dating

Carbon datingalso called radiocarbon datingmethod of age determination that depends upon the decay to nitrogen of radiocarbon carbon Radiocarbon present in molecules of atmospheric carbon dioxide enters the biological carbon cycle : it is absorbed from the air by green plants and then passed on to animals through the food chain. Radiocarbon decays slowly in a living organism, and the amount lost is continually replenished as long as the organism takes in air or food.

Once the organism dies, however, it ceases to absorb carbon, so that the amount of the radiocarbon in its tissues steadily decreases. Because carbon decays at this constant rate, an estimate of the date at which an organism died can be made by measuring the amount of its residual radiocarbon. The carbon method was developed by the American physicist Willard F. Libby about It has proved to be a versatile technique of dating fossils and archaeological specimens from to 50, years old.

The method is widely used by Pleistocene geologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and investigators in related fields. Carbon dating. Additional Info.

What is radiocarbon?

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Also Known As: radiocarbon dating Show more Related Topics: Radiometric dating Show more. Full Article. Britannica Quiz.

Know Your Chemistry Quiz. From the elements of the periodic table to the processes that create everyday objects—these are just a few of the things that the science of chemistry can teach us. Can you filter your way through our chemistry quiz?

Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. The occurrence of natural radioactive carbon in the atmosphere provides a unique opportunity to date organic materials as old as roughly 60, years.

Unlike most isotopic dating methods, the conventional carbon dating technique is not based on counting daughter…. Likewise, anthropologists and archaeologists apply knowledge of human culture and society to biological findings in order to more fully understand humankind. Astrobiology arose through the activities of the scientists and engineers concerned with the exploration of space.

What is radiocarbon dating?

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