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Radiocarbon dating—also known as carbon-14 dating—is a technique used by archaeologists and historians to determine the age of organic material.
It can theoretically be used to date anything that was alive any time during the last 60,000 years or so, including charcoal from ancient fires, wood used in construction or tools, cloth, bones, seeds, and leather.
This dramatically improves accuracy, and reduces the amount of carbon required from about 10 grams to only a few milligrams.
In recent years, dating methods based on cosmogenic isotopes other than carbon (such as beryllium-10 and chlorine-36) have been developed, which allow for the dating of a wider variety of objects over much longer time scales.
First, the older the object, the less carbon-14 there is to measure.
(The numbers 12, 13 and 14 refer to the total number of protons plus neutrons in the atom's nucleus.Deemed the gold standard of archaeology, the method was developed in the late 1940s and is based on the idea that radiocarbon (carbon 14) is being constantly created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays which then combine with atmospheric oxygen to form CO2, which is then incorporated into plants during photosynthesis.When the plant or animal that consumed the foliage dies, it stops exchanging carbon with the environment and from there on in it is simply a case of measuring how much carbon 14 has been emitted, giving its age.This is because pre-modern carbon 14 chronologies rely on standardised northern and southern hemisphere calibration curves to determine specific dates and are based on the assumption that carbon 14 levels are similar and stable across both hemispheres.However, atmospheric measurements from the last 50 years show varying carbon 14 levels throughout.