What is carbon 14 dating

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Radiocarbon dates are presented in two ways because of this complication.The uncalibrated date is given with the unit BP (radiocarbon years before 1950).Isotopes of a particular element have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but different numbers of neutrons.This means that although they are very similar chemically, they have different masses.In the 19th and early 20th century incredibly patient and careful archaeologists would link pottery and stone tools in different geographical areas by similarities in shape and patterning.Then, by using the idea that the styles of objects evolve, becoming increasing elaborate over time, they could place them in order relative to each other - a technique called seriation.

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With the development of a new method of cleaning charcoal called ABOx-SC, Michael Bird helped to push back the date of arrival of the first humans in Australia by more than 10,000 years.If 1% of the carbon in a 50,000 year old sample is from a modern contaminant, the sample will be dated to around 40,000 years.Because of this, radiocarbon chemists are continually developing new methods to more effectively clean materials.Luckily, we can measure these fluctuations in samples that are dated by other methods.Tree rings can be counted and their radiocarbon content measured.

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