In fact, it is considered the, “most important development in absolute dating in archaeology and remains the main tool for dating the past 50,000 years”.
With this tool, scientist hopes to unravel the mysteries of how man developed, when the first man lived, where he went, and create a type of timetable of human life.
One isotope, carbon-14, is particularly useful in determining the age of once-living artifacts.
A tiny amount of carbon-14 is produced naturally in the upper reaches of the atmosphere, and living things incorporate some of it into their tissues, building up to a constant, albeit very low, level.
Using such methods, scientists determined that the age of the Shroud of Turin (Figure 15.3 “Shroud of Turin”; purported by some to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ and composed of flax fibres, a type of plant) is about 600–700 y, not 2,000 y as claimed by some.
Scientists were also able to use radiocarbon dating to show that the age of a mummified body found in the ice of the Alps was 5,300 y.
This method of dating allows researchers to learn about past civilizations, changes in the earth, and in the climate.
Different civilizations and religions have different methods of dating.
Carbon dating is one of the archeology’s mainstream methods for dating organic objects up to 50,000 years old.
This method is based on the idea of radiative decay of Carbon-14 isotopes over thousands of years.
Through physics, scientists have discovered that radioactive molecules decay at a specific rate dependent on the atomic number and mass of the decaying atoms.
This constant can be used to determine the approximate age of the decaying material through the ratio of radioactive isotopes to the estimated initial concentration of these isotopes at the time of the organism’s death.
Scientists have concluded that very little change has occurred in the ratio of Carbon-12 to Carbon-14 isotopes in the atmosphere meaning that the relationship between these two should be very similar to how they remain today.