Carbon dating for
Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.Renfrew (1973) called it 'the radiocarbon revolution' in describing its impact upon the human sciences.The approximate time since the organism died can be worked out by measuring the amount of carbon-14 left in its remains compared to the amount in living organisms. Along with hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur, carbon is a building block of biochemical molecules ranging from fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to active substances such as hormones.We know that it is older than Christendom, but whether by a couple of years or a couple of centuries, or even by more than a millenium, we can do no more than guess." [Rasmus Nyerup, (Danish antiquarian), 1802 (in Trigger, 19)].Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.
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".The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.Once an organism dies, it stops taking in carbon-14.The carbon-14 it contained at the time of death decays over a long period of time, and the radioactivity of the material decreases.