Taylor (1987) suggests C-14 technique as one of the most significant discoveries of 20thcentury that touches the realms of many disciplines including archaeology.
Prior to the development of radiocarbon dating it was difficult to determine the age of the artifacts unless it was accompanied with some chronologically specific things like a coin.
Researchers from the field of Physics have discovered that radioactive molecules are unstable and they undergo decay to attain a stable structure at a specific rate which is directly determined by the atomic number and mass of the decaying atom (Polach, H. The isotope of carbon thus produced is radioactive and it will undergo decay at a constant rate (Berger and H. The carbon isotope is also absorbed during photosynthesis by plants and reaches animal body when they consume plant parts.
It also reaches the organisms through respiration along with normal carbon-12. “Why Is Radiocarbon Dating Important to Archaeology.” California State Parks.<
A wide range of nuclear techniques are used by archaeologists to determine the age of items.
Artefacts such as the Shroud of Turin, the Dead Sea Scrolls and Charlemagne’s Crown can be dated, and their authenticity verified, using nuclear techniques.
Carbon-14 isotope will undergo decay at an exponential rate to form the stable nitrogen-14. The following equation is used to determine the carbon-14 decay.
Thus by comparing the relative quantity of carbon -12 and carbon -14 in an organic matter excavated scientists can predict the age of the object (R. Where N is the current amount, N_o is the original amount, lambda is the proportionality constant for the growth rate (which is negative for decay), and t is the amount of time that has passed. Source: (Brain, 2014) The half-life of carbon-14 is 5730 years.
Radiocarbon Dating in Archeology The science of archaeology has undeniably enriched mankind’s history and has helped to quench the quest to understand our past cultures in a better way.
The burning of a small piece of the excavated organic matter and measuring the electrons emitted during the process by the decaying carbon-14 by radiation counters enable to quantify the amount of carbon -14 present in the material.
This data will help the scientists to relationship of Nitrogen-14 and Carbon-14 atom and can be used to predict the age of the artifact directly.
For example, if a tree was found to be used in an excavated piece of architecture, by determining the age of the tree or the period when the tree was cut down for construction, the era to which the excavated architecture exactly belongs can be estimated (Michels, J W). Based on this constant of the radioisotope of carbon, 14-C or carbon -14 the age of the organic material is assessed.
The Method of Carbon-14 Technique Archaeologists rely on the various radiometric dating techniques- based on the radioactive properties of unstable chemical atoms to determine the age of the materials. In the biosphere carbon-14 is created by the collision of a neutron, exited by the cosmic ray collides with a nitrogen atom.