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Historical artefacts like moa bones can be dated using a technique that measures the activity of the radioisotope carbon still present in the sample. By comparing this with a modern standard, an estimate of the calendar age of the artefact can be made. To use this interactive, move your mouse or finger over any of the labelled boxes and click to obtain more information. Amongst the artefacts that have been found are ancient moa bones. Some of these have been sent to the Waikato Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory for analysis.
Carbon dating is a variety of radioactive dating which is applicable only to matter which was once living and presumed to be in equilibrium with the atmosphere, taking in carbon dioxide from the air for photosynthesis. Cosmic ray protons blast nuclei in the upper atmosphere, producing neutrons which in turn bombard nitrogen, the major constituent of the atmosphere. This neutron bombardment produces the radioactive isotope carbon The radioactive carbon combines with oxygen to form carbon dioxide and is incorporated into the cycle of living things. The carbon forms at a rate which appears to be constant, so that by measuring the radioactive emissions from once-living matter and comparing its activity with the equilibrium level of living things, a measurement of the time elapsed can be made. Presuming the rate of production of carbon to be constant, the activity of a sample can be directly compared to the equilibrium activity of living matter and the age calculated. Various tests of reliability have confirmed the value of carbon data, and many examples provide an interesting range of application.
History, anthropology, and archaeology are three distinct but closely related bodies of knowledge that tell man of his present by virtue of his past. Historians can tell what cultures thrived in different regions and when they disintegrated. Archaeologists, on the other hand, provide proof of authenticity of a certain artifact or debunk historical or anthropological findings.
Climate Change Might Break Carbon Dating
When we speak of the element Carbon, we most often refer to the most naturally abundant stable isotope 12 C. Although 12 C is definitely essential to life, its unstable sister isotope 14 C has become of extreme importance to the science world. Radiocarbon Dating is the process of determining the age of a sample by examining the amount of 14 C remaining against the known half-life, 5, years.