baby boomers speed dating - Radiocarbon dating history

Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.

Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.

Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).

Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".

Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.

Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.

It also has some applications in geology; its importance in dating organic materials cannot be underestimated enough.

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).

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.

Today, the radiocarbon-14 dating method is used extensively in environmental sciences and in human sciences such as archaeology and anthropology.

date of organic material - but an approximate age, usually within a range of a few years either way.

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