You probably have seen or read news stories about fascinating ancient artifacts.At an archaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old.Following Time's lead, we reported that although radiocarbon tests have dated the shroud to 1260-1390 A.D., no one has been able to account for the shadowy image of a naked 6-foot-tall man that appears on the shroud.Radiocarbon dating can be used on samples of bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers.The half-life of a radioactive isotope describes the amount of time that it takes half of the isotope in a sample to decay.What methods do they use and how do these methods work?In this article, we will examine the methods by which scientists use radioactivity to determine the age of objects, most notably carbon-14 dating.
The stable form of carbon is carbon 12 and the radioactive isotope carbon 14 decays over time into nitrogen 14 and other particles.
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When it comes to dating archaeological samples, several timescale problems arise.
For example, Christian time counts the birth of Christ as the beginning, AD 1 (Anno Domini); everything that occurred before Christ is counted backwards from AD as BC (Before Christ).