What does radiocarbon dating mean in history

Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 ± 40 years, meaning that every 5,700 years or so the object loses half its carbon-14.Samples from the past 70,000 years made of wood, charcoal, peat, bone, antler or one of many other carbonates may be dated using this technique.They used pottery and other materials in sites to date 'relatively'.

After death the amount of carbon-14 in the organic specimen decreases very regularly as the molecules decay.It is called 'radio'-carbon, because it is 'radioactive'.This means that its atomic structure is not stable and there is an uneasy relationship between the particles in the nucleus of the atom itself.We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].The person who wrote these words lived in the 1800s, many years before archaeologists could accurately date materials from archaeological sites using scientific methods.

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