Radiocarbon dating of papyrus

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How It Works: Carbon has 3 isotopic forms: Carbon-12, Carbon-13, and Carbon-14.

The numbers refer to the atomic weight, so Carbon-12 has 6 protons and 6 neutrons, Carbon-13 has 6 protons and 7 neutrons, and Carbon-14 has 6 protons and 8 neutrons.

Rodents, for example, can create havoc in a site by moving items from one context to another.

Natural disasters like floods can sweep away top layers of sites to other locations.

Plankton absorbs, Carbon-14 from the ocean much like terrestrial plants absorb Carbon-14 from the air.

Since plankton is the foundation of the marine food chain, Carbon-14 is spread throughout aquatic life.

In 1949, American chemist Willard Libby, who worked on the development of the atomic bomb, published the first set of radiocarbon dates.

One good example would be the elevated levels of Carbon-14 in our atmosphere since WWII as a result of atomic bombs testing.As long as there is organic material present, radiocarbon dating is a universal dating technique that can be applied anywhere in the world.It is good for dating for the last 50,000 years to about 400 years ago and can create chronologies for areas that previously lacked calendars.Therefore, radiocarbon dates need to be calibrated with other dating techniques to ensure accuracy.Plants are not the only organism that can process Carbon-14 from the air.

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