Carbon dating is a scientific method for trying to determine the age of organically based archaeological discoveries.
The process hinges on measuring the radioactive isotope (carbon-14) that is present in all terrestrial life. At death the isotope gradually decays. So the remaining amount in a given artifact can give us a picture about its age. More precisely, the ratio of remaining carbon-14 to stable, unchanging carbon (carbon-12) is used to try to determine a sample’s age.
I say “try” because the process is not as exact as some cheesy educational books or docudramas will tell us. The buzzword “carbon-dating” is often used to apparently prove scientific theories, but many laypersons are unaware of the high degree of controversy (and inaccuracy) surrounding this process. Like most, if not all, of science, there’s room for bias and interpretation. And this is hardly surprising because science is a human enterprise to begin with.
The idea of carbon dating has become so much a part of popular culture that it appears in science fiction and fantasy films like Prometheus,¹ where carbon samples are used to determine the age of alien substances discovered on a distant planet.
Related Posts » Archaeology
Image source (immediate right) and helpful article
- Core sample sends carbon clock farther back in time : Nature News & Comment (nature.com)
- New advancement for carbon dating found in Japanese lake (japandailypress.com)
- Carbon Dating Gets an Update (science.slashdot.org)
- The problems with Carbon-14 Dating (lambfollower.wordpress.com)
- Bosnia Pyramid Carbon Dated 25 Thousand Years Old (rclvideolibrary.com)
- Scientists: Carbon Dating Could Help Identify Victims Who Washed Ashore At Gilgo Beach (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Dating of New Zealand Wreck Suggests Visitors Pre-Dated Cook (sott.net)
- The Most Important Records For Dating Old Objects Were Just Found In A Japanese Lake (businessinsider.com)
- Reconciling the Conflicts between Science and Religion (realintent.org)