Carbon 14 dating simplified
Libby in 1949, and has become an indispensable part of the archaeologist's tool kit since.
As the Earth's upper atmosphere is bombarded by cosmic radiation, atmospheric nitrogen is broken down into an unstable isotope of carbon - carbon 14 (C-14).
The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere.
Radio carbon dating determines the age of ancient objects by means of measuring the amount of carbon-14 there is left in an object.
Yet, you’ve heard the news: Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1,000 years old. Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own.
In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.
This allowed for the establishment of world-wide chronologies.
It's development revolutionized archaeology by providing a means of dating deposits independent of artifacts and local stratigraphic sequences.
Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you.
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