Application of radiocarbon dating

13-Jun-2016 12:21

As explained below, the radiocarbon date tells us when the organism was alive (not when the material was used).This fact should always be remembered when using radiocarbon dates.There are a number of ways to enter into a career in studying radiocarbon dating.Typically, a Master's Degree in chemistry is required because of the extensive lab work.Increasingly though, students are learning about the principles of radiocarbon dates in archaeology, palaeontology and climate science degrees and can combine cross-disciplinary studies.

Plant eating animals (herbivores and omnivores) get their carbon by eating plants.

In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).

Radiocarbon dating may only be used on organic materials.

The unstable nature of carbon 14 (with a precise half-life that makes it easy to measure) means it is ideal as an absolute dating method.

The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon-14 in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study (2); carbon-14 also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.

Plant eating animals (herbivores and omnivores) get their carbon by eating plants.

In 1979, Desmond Clark said of the method “we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation” (3).

Radiocarbon dating may only be used on organic materials.

The unstable nature of carbon 14 (with a precise half-life that makes it easy to measure) means it is ideal as an absolute dating method.

The other two isotopes in comparison are more common than carbon-14 in the atmosphere but increase with the burning of fossil fuels making them less reliable for study (2); carbon-14 also increases, but its relative rarity means its increase is negligible. After this point, other Absolute Dating methods may be used.

Further complications arise when the carbon in a sample has not taken a straightforward route from the atmosphere to the organism and thence to the measured sample.