The first dated materials included wood from Egyptian tombs, linen wrapping from one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and heartwood from a California sequoia.
Radiocarbon dating is useful for dating organic materials as old as 45,000 to 50,000 years, after which little C atoms in a sample decay.
Dating charcoal that originated from such dead wood would result in a date that could be centuries older than the actual burning of the wood in a hearth.
Dating seeds and annual plants using AMS dating is a common method of avoiding the problems in dating wood charcoal.
Cosmic rays are positively charged atoms moving at enormous speeds.
When they strike ordinary atoms in the upper atmosphere, the cosmic rays smash them apart. Some of these neutrons then collide with nitrogen atoms.
“Radiocarbon Dating: An Introduction,” Beta Analytic, n.d.
While Willard Libby received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1960 for his contributions to the development of the radiocarbon dating method, the process that led to the discovery of this method began much earlier.
Archaeologists are interested in the absolute age that a specific event took place, thus the dating method should be as accurate and precise as possible.
Dating a sample of wood charcoal from an archaeological feature such as a hearth might include pieces of wood of different ages.
Radiocarbon dating is frequently used to date ancient human settlements or tools. It is a stable atom that will not change its atomic mass under normal circumstances.
BASIS OF RADIOCARBON DATING Radiocarbon dating compares the amount of normal carbon with the amount of radioactive carbon in a sample.