A mathematical explanation of carbon dating and half life
Stone and metal cannot be dated but pottery may be dated through surviving residue such as food particles or paint that uses organic material (8).
There are a number of ways to enter into a career in studying radiocarbon dating.
AMS works slightly differently; it converts the atoms of the sample into fast-moving ions so that they become charged atoms.
It is oxidised quickly and absorbed in great quantities by all living organisms - animal and plant, land and ocean dwelling alike.
This allows researchers to account for variation by comparing the known records of C levels in the tree record, looking for a tree record that has the same proportion of radiocarbon.
The overlapping nature of the tree records means this is the most accurate record we have.
This does not mean that we have a precise year of 3780BC, it means we then need to calibrate through other methods that will show us how atmospheric concentrations of the C isotope has changed - most typically through the dendrochronology records (tree ring data) (10).
Very old trees such as North American Bristlecone Pine are ideal for constructing long and accurate records of the state of the atmosphere.
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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.