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Radiocarbon dating is vital when studying historical artefacts that have value to ancient societies, climates and artists. Artefacts that have cultural value can tell present day historians about religions and traditions of ancient societies and in what way their culture has influenced societies today and human or animal remains lying in unusual locations can tell climatologists about the climate in that area of the time of death. Radiocarbon dating is a historic dating method that is used to determined the age of ancient artefacts. The method was pioneered by Willard F Libby in the 1950’s, and today is the most widely used method of age estimation in archaeology. How it works is that some elements have multiple isotopes. Carbon has three main isotopes, carbon-12, carbon-13 and carbon-14. Carbon-14 is radioactive and therefore is used to measure age. Radioactive atoms decay into stable atoms by a simple mathematical process. By a certain amount of time, half of the available atom will decay, this is called a half-life. For examples, 800 atoms in the year 2000 has a half-life of 50 years, in 2050 there would be 400 atoms left. In 2100 there would be 200 left, and in 2150 there would be 100 left. By measuring the level of carbon-14 atoms in an object, researchers can mathematically work out the approximate age of the object or when it died. The half-life of carbon-17 is 5,730 years. The level of carbon-14 in an organic object is usually known, therefore with a mathematic process the age of the object is easily calculated. Radiocarbon dating is relatively accurate, however can not be used for objects older that 50,000 years due to the level of carbon being so minimal. Additionally, radiocarbon dating can only be done on organic materials, such as plant fibres or tissues from living organisms due to nonorganic objects like rocks, are not able to consume any carbon-14 and therefore does not contain the correct level of carbon-14. All living organisms are in a dynamic equilibrium with their environment and therefore can be dated.

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