Radiocarbon dating is probably the most important scientific method used by archaeologists to date objects.
It is also an indispensable tool to researchers in other fields such as geology, geophysics and environmental science. It is produced by cosmic rays in the upper atmosphere, and quickly diffuses through the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, dissolves in the oceans and enters all living matter through photosynthesis and the food chain.
As C is unstable it will eventually decay by emitting an electron or beta particle.
Radiocarbon dating showed that they were actually several centuries older. Traditionally, the ages of prehistorical sites were estimated by studying the geology of the surroundings; sometimes archaeologists made a wild guess based of the depth a sample had been buried. It was shown that humans arrived in North America earlier than had been previously thought.
Agriculture began later than had been supposed in the Near East, but earlier than predicted in Europe.
This questioned the established idea that farming had developed in the Middle East and spread westwards.
The principle behind radiocarbon dating is that when a plant or animal dies, there is no more exchange of carbon with the atmosphere. This method was developed by the American scientist Willard Libby in the 1940s, and soon attracted the attention of scientists from many different subject areas.
Exponential decay means that the amount of C atoms.
The discovery of radiocarbon dating probably had a greater influence on modern archaeology than any other technological advance, especially on prehistoric periods where without written records archaeologists could previously only speculate the age of artefacts and sites.Before it was developed artefacts were dated largely by guesswork and assuming connections with other objects, the discovery of radiocarbon dating showed that many of these assumptions were wrong.Many radiocarbon results were so unexpected that archaeologists initially questioned the accuracy of the method, however, with time, its reliability was established.The vast majority of prehistoric sites could not be dated before radiocarbon dating.There was much uncertainty over the age of Stonehenge and the many burial mounds throughout Europe.It had generally been assumed that they were younger than Mycenae as the technology had diffused from the Near East.