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Because the cosmic ray bombardment is fairly constant, there’s a near-constant level of carbon-14 to carbon-12 ratio in Earth’s atmosphere.Organisms at the base of the food chain that photosynthesize – for example, plants and algae – use the carbon in Earth’s atmosphere.Scientists, studying evidence preserved in speleothems in a coastal cave, illustrate that more than three million years ago -- a time in which the Earth was two to three degrees Celsius warmer than ...Arctic sea-ice has decreased rapidly during the last decades in concert with substantial global surface warming.A detailed description of radiocarbon dating is available at the Wikipedia radiocarbon dating web page.
In contrast to relative dating techniques whereby artifacts were simply designated as "older" or "younger" than other cultural remains based on the presence of fossils or stratigraphic position, 14C dating provided an easy and increasingly accessible way for archaeologists to construct chronologies of human behavior and examine temporal changes through time at a finer scale than what had previously been possible.Probably the most important factor to consider when using radiocarbon dating is if external factors, whether through artificial contamination, animal disturbance, or human negligence, contributed to any errors in the determinations.For example, rootlet intrusion, soil type (e.g., limestone carbonates), and handling of the specimens in the field or lab (e.g., accidental introduction of tobacco ash, hair, or fibers) can all potentially affect the age of a sample.Here’s an example using the simplest atom, hydrogen. Carbon-14 is an unstable isotope of carbon that will eventually decay at a known rate to become carbon-12.Radiocarbon dating uses isotopes of the element carbon. Cosmic rays – high-energy particles from beyond the solar system – bombard Earth’s upper atmosphere continually, in the process creating the unstable carbon-14. Because it’s unstable, carbon-14 will eventually decay back to carbon-12 isotopes.
Regardless of the particular 14C technique used, the value of this tool for archaeology has clearly been appreciated.