Carbon dating technology
The C14 technique has been and continues to be applied and used in many, many different fields including hydrology, atmospheric science, oceanography, geology, palaeoclimatology, archaeology and biomedicine.
There are three principal isotopes of carbon which occur naturally - C12, C13 (both stable) and C14 (unstable or radioactive).
Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).
Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".
Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.
Oakley (1979) suggested its development meant an almost complete re-writing of the evolution and cultural emergence of the human species.
They exist in equilibrium with the C14 concentration of the atmosphere, that is, the numbers of C14 atoms and non-radioactive carbon atoms stays approximately the same over time.
The rapidity of the dispersal of C14 into the atmosphere has been demonstrated by measurements of radioactive carbon produced from thermonuclear bomb testing.
Herein lies the true advantage of the radiocarbon method, it is able to be uniformly applied throughout the world.
Included below is an impressive list of some of the types of carbonaceous samples that have been commonly radiocarbon dated in the years since the inception of the method: The historical perspective on the development of radiocarbon dating is well outlined in Taylor's (1987) book "Radiocarbon Dating: An archaeological perspective".
14C also enters the Earth's oceans in an atmospheric exchange and as dissolved carbonate (the entire 14C inventory is termed the carbon exchange reservoir (Aitken, 1990)).
Plants and animals which utilise carbon in biological foodchains take up 14C during their lifetimes.A sample of acacia wood from the tomb of the pharoah Zoser (or Djoser; 3rd Dynasty, ca. Libby reasoned that since the half-life of C years, they should obtain a C14 concentration of about 50% that which was found in living wood (see Libby, 1949 for further details).