Carbon dating decay constant
There is a useful diagrammatic representation of this process given here Libby, Anderson and Arnold (1949) were the first to measure the rate of this decay.They found that after 5568 years, half the C14 in the original sample will have decayed and after another 5568 years, half of that remaining material will have decayed, and so on (see figure 1 below).
At about 50 - 60 000 years, then, the limit of the technique is reached (beyond this time, other radiometric techniques must be used for dating).There is a quantitative relationship between the decay of 14C and the production of a beta particle. That is, the probability of decay for an atom of 14C in a discrete sample is constant, thereby requiring the application of statistical methods for the analysis of counting data.It follows from this that any material which is composed of carbon may be dated.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".Herein lies the true advantage of the radiocarbon method, it is able to be uniformly applied throughout the world.
Included below is an impressive list of some of the types of carbonaceous samples that have been commonly radiocarbon dated in the years since the inception of the method: The historical perspective on the development of radiocarbon dating is well outlined in Taylor's (1987) book "Radiocarbon Dating: An archaeological perspective".
The radiocarbon method was developed by a team of scientists led by the late Professor Willard F.
Libby of the University of Chicago in immediate post-WW2 years.
Nyerup's words illustrate poignantly the critical power and importance of dating; to order time.
Radiocarbon dating has been one of the most significant discoveries in 20th century science.
Libby and his team intially tested the radiocarbon method on samples from prehistoric Egypt.