C14 carbon dating problems

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I have tried here to answer some of the frequently asked questions that I receive from students via email, as well as providing some basic information about scientific dating methods."Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure.The relative dating method worked very well, but only in sites which were had a connection to the relative scale. When radiocarbon dating was developed, it revolutionised archaeology, because it enabled them to more confidently date the past, and to build a more accurate picture of the human past.The archaeologist Colin Renfrew (1973) called it the development of this dating method 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its great impact upon the human sciences.After twice that time (about 11000 years), another half of that remaining amount will have disappeared.

The person who wrote these words lived in the 1800s, many years before archaeologists could accurately date materials from archaeological sites using scientific methods.

After the war he became very interested in peaceful applications of atomic science.

He and two students first measured the "half-life" of radiocarbon.

You can work out that after about 50 000 years of time, all the radiocarbon will have gone.

Therefore, radiocarbon dating is not able to date anything older than 60 or 70 000 years old.

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