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About 21 pounds of Nitrogen is converted each year making about 1/trillion atmospheric carbon atoms radioactive C.Then an age can be obtained for the organic material.Imagine an archaeologist needs to assign a date to a bone recovered during an excavation.Turning to carbon-14 dating, the archaeologist might discover that the bone dates from 3,500 years ago. It involves putting things into a sequence based on their relative ages.It has a radio half-life (T 1/2) of 5,730 years and is a low energy beta emitter with a radioactive range in air of ten inches.It is produced currently at a fairly constant rate in the upper atmosphere through the action of cosmic radiation on Nitrogen-14.Carbon-14 dating techniques were first developed by the American chemist, Willard F.Libby at the University of Chicago in the 50’s, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960.

Although it is less accurate, the Libby half-life was retained to avoid inconsistencies or errors when comparing carbon-14 test results that were produced before and after the Cambridge half-life was derived.It is also called “radiocarbon” because it is unstable and radioactive relative to carbon-12 and carbon-13.Carbon consists of 99% carbon-12, 1% carbon-13, and about one part per million carbon-14.Without the ability to date archaeological sites and specific contexts within them, archaeologists would be unable to study cultural change and continuity over time.No wonder, then, that so much effort has been devoted to developing increasingly sophisticated and precise methods for determining when events happened in the past.Adding the margin of error for carbon-14 (in this case, /- 150 years), the archaeologist can give a reliable date range for the bone: 1655-1405 B. A bone found deep in the ground will generally be older than one found close to the surface, for example.