Notes on carbon dating

Moving away from techniques, the most exciting thing about radiocarbon is what it reveals about our past and the world we live in.Radiocarbon dating was the first method that allowed archaeologists to place what they found in chronological order without the need for written records or coins.

The calibrated date is our “best estimate” of the sample’s actual age, but we need to be able to return to old dates and recalibrate them because new research is continually used to update the calibration curve.

Radiocarbon dates are presented in two ways because of this complication.

The uncalibrated date is given with the unit BP (radiocarbon years before 1950).

In the 19th and early 20th century incredibly patient and careful archaeologists would link pottery and stone tools in different geographical areas by similarities in shape and patterning.

Then, by using the idea that the styles of objects evolve, becoming increasing elaborate over time, they could place them in order relative to each other - a technique called seriation.

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