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Rachel Wood does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
Australian National University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
Astronomy Worksheets Biology Worksheets Coloring Worksheets Dinosaur Worksheets Geology Worksheets Geography Worksheets History Worksheets Holiday Worksheets Math Worksheets Language Arts Worksheets All Educational Worksheets Astronomy Music Biology Music Concepts Music Chemistry Music Foreign Language Music Geology Music Geography Music History Music Language Arts Music Life Skills Music Math Music Physics Music All Educational Music One method that scientists use to date ancient fossils and artifacts is called radiocarbon dating.
All living things on Earth are made up of a high percentage of an element called carbon.
The carbon in their bodies at the time of their death will remain in their bodies until they decompose, or if they become fossilized, then forever. This allows scientists to look at the amount of decay in a fossil’s radioactive carbon and determine a relative date.
Radiocarbon dating is only effective for objects and fossils that are less than 50,000 years old.
Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.
Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.
Most carbon on Earth is not radioactive, but a very small percentage is.
Libby thus reasoned that by measuring carbon 14 levels in the remains of an organism that died long ago, one could estimate the time of its death.
This procedure of radiocarbon dating has been widely adopted and is considered accurate enough for practical use to study remains up to 50,000 years old.
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View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.
Thus, as living things take in carbon, they inevitably will take up a small amount of radioactive carbon into their bodies.