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You probably have seen or read news stories about fascinating ancient artifacts.
At an archaeological dig, a piece of wooden tool is unearthed and the archaeologist finds it to be 5,000 years old.
There are three principal isotopes of carbon which occur naturally - C12, C13 (both stable) and C14 (unstable or radioactive).
Desmond Clark (1979) wrote that were it not for radiocarbon dating, "we would still be foundering in a sea of imprecisions sometime bred of inspired guesswork but more often of imaginative speculation" (Clark, 1979:7).
Writing of the European Upper Palaeolithic, Movius (1960) concluded that "time alone is the lens that can throw it into focus".
Carbon-14 dating is a way of determining the age of certain archeological artifacts of a biological origin up to about 50,000 years old.
It is used in dating things such as bone, cloth, wood and plant fibers that were created in the relatively recent past by human activities.
By measuring the C14 concentration or residual radioactivity of a sample whose age is not known, it is possible to obtain the countrate or number of decay events per gram of Carbon.