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Radiocarbon, or carbon 14, is an isotope of the element carbon that is unstable and weakly radioactive. Carbon 14 is continually being formed in the upper atmosphere by the effect of cosmic ray neutrons on nitrogen 14 atoms.It is rapidly oxidized in air to form carbon dioxide and enters the global carbon cycle.
In 1960, Libby was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for this work.
Finally, although radiocarbon dating is the most common and widely used chronometric technique in archaeology today, it is not unfailing. Whenever possible multiple samples should be collected and dated from associated sections.
The trend of the samples will provide a ball park estimate of the actual date of deposition.
Inscriptions, distinctive markings, and historical documents can all offer clues to an artifact’s age.
And if the artifact is organic, like wood or bone, researchers can turn to a method called radiocarbon dating.
The impact of the radiocarbon dating technique on modern man has made it one of the most significant discoveries of the 20th century.