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Overview Of Radiocarbon Dating And Its Advancements

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The dates provided by archaeologists have been aided with the help of new advancements in dating technologies, this case radiocarbon dating. One of these, more prevalent is the AMS (Accelerator mass spectrometry). Libby (the originator of radiocarbon dating) understood that carbon-14 in the air would discover its way into organisms. Radiocarbon dating was the byproduct of atomic and nuclear research done during World War II. Since then, many other materials besides tree rings and charcoal can now be tested.

These are done taking into consideration a highly careful procedure with fear of contamination. Not only are there more procedures now into how to handle and to store samples, but it is also more relevant to think about samples in their context and how these objects are related to where they were found. Radiocarbon dating is tested hypothetically, on the off chance that one could distinguish the measure of carbon-14 out of a sample, one could set up that question’s age utilizing the half-life, or rate of decay, of the isotope. (Jull, T. 2012). Radiocarbon dating extraordinarily profited the fields of archaeology by enabling specialists to generate more exact sequences globally and contextually. These happenings are not without comprise, since radiocarbon dating, unfortunately, does have some The advancements of radiocarbon dating have been classified into three generations. The first generation was in the 1950s-1970s, the second in the 1970s to 1980s where the variations of C14 in the past could be used to make calibration curves, from samples of tree rings with known dates. The last generation is that of refining the calibration curve, establishing the AMS and reducing the size of the samples needed. (Greene, K. 2010) In the first generation, it was made known that radiocarbon dating is the utmost easiest method to date artefacts and archaeological sites as every living organism in the biosphere has C14 in their system as soon as they die. (Aitken, M. 1990)

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The second generation granted knowledge of reservoir effects that have been controversial to scientists attempting to use radiocarbon dating, as different soils absorb different amounts of c14. This happens when the content of C14 is mixed with a different layer of the ocean, for example, meaning that there is a different content in deeper levels as their interaction with the atmosphere is different. (Jull, T. 2012). The knowledge of different reservoir effects is an advance in radiocarbon dating, it is now known that corals absorb bicarbonate from the ocean surface not from the atmosphere directly and so a correction needs to be made. These corrections are new calculations needed to be done before presenting results. (Jull, T. 2012)The third generation was a time for innovations. The first radiocarbon dating laboratory was created in 1948, but now they are spread all over the world and have sophisticated instruments. (Walker, M. 2005). With so many, there are inter-laboratory comparisons that allow for exchanges of measurements and reassuring r every laboratory has the same results so that discrepancies do not occur. These labs also allow for a better understanding of the nuclear decay process (radiocarbon processing). (Walker, M. 2005). The most major advance was the development of the AMS allowing dating to be made to not only events that occurred hundreds of years ago but also thousands of years ago. Another important difference between AMS and earlier dating methods is that it requires a very small amount of a sample to be processed and can be done in a quick manner, and directly. Until recently, several millions of volts were required to process a sample in the accelerator, but now it only needs a few hundred kilovolts, which is more energy efficient and less cost worthy. (Jull, T. 2012).

The AMS works by first needing a sample that has been cleaned and made into a form that can be tested. This cleaning is the work of pretreatments done to all sorts of materials, including wood, pollen, charcoal and animal remains. (Jull, T. 2012) Figure 1 A graph of radiocarbon measured in tree rings of a sample. Credit: Mari ClevenSome materials have better dating outcomes than others. Each material that is being sampled has its own amount of acid-base-oxidation needed for pretreatment before dating. (Bird, M. 2014). This is known with the advancement of laboratories and machinery. One of the materials, charcoal, is a standout amongst the most regularly utilized materials for radiocarbon dating of ecological and archaeological samples. While charcoal is by and large viewed as inert there is proof of chemical modifications due to the absorption of carbon. This normally occurs when the charcoal has been exposed in its surrounding environment, these factors need to be taken into consideration and the carbon needs to be removed before dating. Erroneous dates will come up if it has not been clean prior to the radiocarbon dating technique (Bird, M. 2014)In addition, artwork and fabric can also be tested now. “in 1988 AMS dating resolved the long-standing controversy over the age of the Turin Shroud, a piece of cloth with the image of a man’s body on it that many genuinely believed to be the imprint of the body of Christ. ” A correction was made, that in fact it was not of the time of Christ but dated back to the 14th century AD. (Thames and Hudson, 2016) Figure 2 Shroud of Turin (Shutterstock / I. Pilon)

However, radiocarbon dating does not come without inaccuracies. Contamination is one of the largest issues. It can occur while in the field with the introduction of younger organisms, such as roots, into older organisms, done by tools. They can also occur in the laboratory by means of storage issues or fungal growth. Even these small issues can cause large discrepancies in the dates that are presented. (Walker, M. 2005)Radiocarbon dating has progressed between the mid-twentieth and mid-21st centuries. These dates have given a structure to the prehistoric chronology of the world. This is emphasized by the shift away from merely needing to find when things were used or built but why they were being used, such as the inhabitants’ lifestyles, and behavioral traits in certain locations and periods. These advancements include many new forms of methodology. Primarily: learning how to avoid common errors, understanding how to properly store samples, use proper procedures to avoid contamination, as well as understanding that there are different carbon values in different types of materials based on where they are globally.

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