Radiocarbon dating and the shroud of turin
It is called 'radio'-carbon, because it is 'radioactive'.
This means that its atomic structure is not stable and there is an uneasy relationship between the particles in the nucleus of the atom itself.
In the 1940s, scientists succeeded in finding out how long it takes for radiocarbon to disappear, or decay, from a sample of carbon from a dead plant or animal.
Willard Libby, the principal scientist, had worked in the team making the nuclear bomb during World War 2, so he was an expert in nuclear and atomic chemistry.
During the period of a plant's life, the plant is taking in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, which is how the plant makes energy and grows.
They thought that sites which had the same kinds of pots and tools would be the same age.
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.
Libby later received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for the radiocarbon discovery.
Today, there are over 130 radiocarbon dating laboratories around the world producing radiocarbon dates for the scientific community.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.