Radiocarbon dating tools
Radiocarbon dating is one of the most widely used scientific dating methods in archaeology and environmental science.
It can be applied to most organic materials and spans dates from a few hundred years ago right back to about 50,000 years ago - about when modern humans were first entering Europe.
Radiocarbon analyses are carried out at specialized laboratories around the world (see a list of labs at: When a biological organism dies, the radioactive carbon in its body begins to break down or decay.
The introduction of "old" or "artificial" carbon into the atmosphere (i.e., the "Suess Effect" and "Atom Bomb Effect", respectively) can influence the ages of dates making them appear older or younger than they actually are.Bioturbation by crabs, rodents, and other animals can also cause samples to move between strata leading to age reversals.Shell may succumb to isotopic exchange if it interacts with carbon from percolating ground acids or recrystallization when shell aragonite transforms to calcite and involves the exchange of modern calcite.This is a major concern for bone dates where pretreatment procedures must be employed to isolate protein or a specific amino acid such as hydroxyproline (known to occur almost exclusively in bone collagen) to ensure accurate age assessments of bone specimens.
Alone, or in concert, these factors can lead to inaccuracies and misinterpretations by archaeologists without proper investigation of the potential problems associated with sampling and dating.Obviously there will usually be a loss of stable carbon too but the proportion of radiocarbon to stable carbon will reduce according to the exponential decay law: R = A exp(-T/8033) where R is C ratio of the living organism and T is the amount of time that has passed since the death of the organism.