Carbon dating decay

The Mayan calendar used 3114 BC as their reference.

More recently is the radiocarbon date of 1950 AD or before present, BP.

Looking at the graph, 100% of radiocarbon in a sample will be reduced to 50% after 5730 years.

In 11,460 years, half of the 50% will remain, or 25%, and so on.

Radiocarbon is then taken in by plants through photosynthesis, and these plants in turn are consumed by all the organisms on the planet.

So every living thing has a certain amount of radiocarbon within them.

After an organism dies, the radiocarbon decreases through a regular pattern of decay. The time taken for half of the atoms of a radioactive isotope to decay in Carbon-14’s case is about 5730 years.

Half-lives vary according to the isotope, for example, Uranium-238 has a half-life of 4500 million years where as Nitrogen-17 has a half-life of 4.173 seconds!

Relative dating stems from the idea that something is younger or older relative to something else.

Plankton absorbs, Carbon-14 from the ocean much like terrestrial plants absorb Carbon-14 from the air.

Since plankton is the foundation of the marine food chain, Carbon-14 is spread throughout aquatic life.

In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon dates.

His radiocarbon dating technique is the most important development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main tool for dating the past 50,000 years.

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Therefore, radiocarbon dates need to be calibrated with other dating techniques to ensure accuracy.

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