Start Radiocarbon dating 101

Radiocarbon dating 101

The methods work because radioactive elements are unstable, and they are always trying to move to a more stable state. This process by which an unstable atomic nucleus loses energy by releasing radiation is called radioactive decay.

Paleolimnological and plant physiological literature were reviewed to determine which types of aquatic plant macrofossils are suitable for radiocarbon dating, with a particular focus on the uptake of reservoir-aged dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) by emergent plants.

Submerged aquatic plants utilize large amounts of DIC and are clearly not suitable for radiocarbon dating.

The other method is “Relative Dating” which gives an order of events without giving an exact age (1): typically artefact typology or the study of the sequence of the evolution of fossils.

There are three carbon isotopes that occur as part of the Earth's natural processes; these are carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14.

However, rocks and other objects in nature do not give off such obvious clues about how long they have been around.

So, we rely on radiometric dating to calculate their ages.

Radiometric dating, or radioactive dating as it is sometimes called, is a method used to date rocks and other objects based on the known decay rate of radioactive isotopes.