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Professor Willard Libby produced the first radiocarbon dates in 1949 and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Radiocarbon dating works by comparing the three different isotopes of carbon.
In addition, samples need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove carbon contamination from glues and soil before dating.
This is particularly important for very old samples.
Some of the first radiocarbon dates produced showed that the Scottish tombs were thousands of years older than those in Greece.
The barbarians of the north were capable of designing complex structures similar to those in the classical world.
In the 19th and early 20th century incredibly patient and careful archaeologists would link pottery and stone tools in different geographical areas by similarities in shape and patterning.
While the lighter isotopes C has decayed that what remains can no longer be measured. In 5,730 years half of the C in the atmosphere, and therefore in plants and animals, has not always been constant.
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View the full list Radiocarbon dating has transformed our understanding of the past 50,000 years.
The calibrated date is also presented, either in BC or AD or with the unit cal BP (calibrated before present - before 1950).
The calibrated date is our “best estimate” of the sample’s actual age, but we need to be able to return to old dates and recalibrate them because new research is continually used to update the calibration curve.
This method requires less than 1g of bone, but few countries can afford more than one or two AMSs, which cost more than A$500,000.